How To Bring More Gratitude Into Your Life and Improve Your Mental Health

Gratitude is sometimes used as a stick with which to beat someone down. ‘Try to be grateful for how good your life is’, when thrown at someone talking about their experiences of depression, feels immensely dismissive, while ‘you should be grateful’ (whether that’s for a relationship or a job) can be an attempt to gaslight people into accepting poor treatment.

This isn’t to say gratitude is a bad thing – far from it. But when wielded as a weapon, it gets a bad rap. Gratitude, viewed properly, as being thankful for the good things in your life, can be a powerful thing.

There’s a wealth of research that points to gratitude – feeling it and expressing it – making us happier and boosting mental wellbeing. The key is not to ignore issues by sticking gratitude on top as a plaster, but incorporating gratitude more seamlessly into your day-to-day life.

It’s about recognising that things aren’t perfect, but there’s some stuff that’s worth appreciating. ‘Gratitude works to improve our mental health,’ says Counselling Directory member Kirsty Taylor. ‘It’s a really powerful emotion.

‘Gratitude is strongly associated with emotions such as optimism, greater life satisfaction and enjoyment of the moment, an improved ability to handle a crisis situation, increased self esteem, better resilience and increased physical and mental wellbeing.

‘Gratitude, simply, allows us to appreciate situations, people and every day things in a way that increases our happiness and allows us to take grater pleasure in all aspects of life.’

Bringing an attitude of gratitude into your life isn’t as easy as just telling yourself to buck up and be grateful, of course. It’s a conscious practice, a change to your way of thinking. So, how do you bring more thankfulness into your being?

Make a conscious decision to be grateful

Changing the way you think, feel, and behave isn’t going to happen magically, with no effort on your end. Sorry.

‘It can be hard to cultivate gratitude when the daily grind of life makes it hard for us to do so,’ Kirsty tells Metro.co.uk. ‘People can have stressful environments, jobs, families and life situations that make it especially hard to feel grateful for our lives and our circumstances.

‘However, if we don’t make a place for gratitude in our life, it can be a much darker world that we live in. ‘Gratitude is often a chosen state of mind or being and can be increased by making a conscious decision to try and focus on happiness.’

Practise gratitude in the mornings and evenings

Here’s an easy way to start getting into the grateful mindset. Each morning, before you get out of bed (and perhaps instead of doing your usual doomscrolling) challenge yourself to think of three things you’re grateful for – and spend a moment appreciating how great that thing is.

It’s okay if it’s something that seems teeny-tiny or silly, like ‘I’m grateful that I’m going to get myself a nice hot drink on the way to work’. Make sure you don’t just rattle through your list and get on with your day. Take time to really dwell on your gratitude for these things, and feel it.

You can do the same thing right before bed. Dominique Antiglio, a sophrologist at BeSophro, suggests combining this practice with a spot of meditation and physical relaxation.

She recommends: ‘First thing in the morning, stand up, gently shake your entire body, letting go of any tension. Exhale fully all negative anticipation and anxieties you may feel.

‘Then sit down, inhale, tense your body, exhale and relax each part of your body from head to toe. Then in a relaxed state with eyes closed, think about one thing that you are grateful for now or that you are going to experience today.

‘It can be a simple as how comfortable your pyjamas feel in that moment (start simple!) and it will become deeper and more meaningful as you repeat this practice.

‘Last thing in the evening, shake the tension of the day away by moving and breathing, and then close your eyes. Think about one quality or resource that got you through your day i.e. perseverance, connection with a friend, hope, calm etc. ‘Then spend a moment gently activating this word in your body and mind through gentle in-breaths and out-breaths.’

Start a gratitude journal

Instead of only thinking or saying those things you’re grateful for, try writing them down.

‘One of my anxiety clients, I asked to keep a gratitude journal, and every time she felt negative or anxious to revert to writing all the things she felt grateful for at that moment,’ says life coach Denise Bosque. ‘It really helped, because it’s training the brain towards noticing and feeling the positive stuff that is all around us in abundance.’

Open your mind to little things

A key part of cultivating gratitude is learning to actually notice the good stuff and savour it. Once you know you’ll have to think of three things to be grateful for at the end of the day, you might find yourself naturally looking out for positive bits in life.

Keep your eyes and mind open to take in the parts of your day that you might normally overlook: how nice it is to walk past the park on the way to work, how tasty your lunch is, how you’re actually really enjoying a new hobby you’ve been trying.

‘Even when it feel tricky to find something to be grateful for, the simple fact that you are starting to look for it is like opening a door to a new world and perspective,’ Dominique explains. ‘When we feel grateful, we are naturally opening up our minds and body, calming our nervous system and shifting our perspective to something more constructive. We are learning to contemplate ourselves, our lives or people around us from a positive place.’

Reframe challenges

Okay, this is where it gets a little trickier. When you come up against bad times, it’s fine to feel sad, angry, or scared. But can you also take a moment to reframe some small part of what’s happened with gratitude?

‘It can be useful to think of a positive way of reframing each complaint that we might want to make,’ says Kirsty. ‘If someone is rude to you at work, you might want to complain to a friend about them. Instead, you could remind yourself of all the other great colleagues you are fortunate to work with and be grateful that perhaps you aren’t having the same stressful day as a rude colleague.

‘When difficult things happen in life, such as loss and bereavement and relationship breakups, we all can have a tendency to feel very down and depressed and low in mood about such painful life events.

‘It can be very hard to reach for a positive when things feel very difficult, but those who can practise daily gratitude might be able to find a positive in even the darkest situations.

‘Loss reminds us to love those around us, relationship breakups show us that love feels wonderful when it’s going well, and that we can learn something so our next relationship will be different. Bereavement can make us stronger in the long term, can remind us of the precious nature of life and allow us to breathe in our surroundings each and feel grateful for the life we get to live.’

Express gratitude out loud

Don’t just think grateful thoughts – speak them. Comment on how lovely the weather is today, say out loud that you appreciate your body for getting you where you need to go, talk about positive things in your life to balance out any venting.

Tell people you appreciate them

Why keep all that gratitude to yourself? If you’re thankful for someone’s support, their actions, their presence, tell them.

This can be as small as giving someone a genuine thank you for making you a tea, it can be telling your partner how much you appreciate them, it could be writing your parents a letter to say how grateful you are for all they’ve done.

Spread the wealth – it feels good and does good, too.

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Source: How to bring more gratitude into your life and improve your mental health | Metro News

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Why Kids Don’t Want to Talk About Their Day

The ride home from school can feel like a battle of wills with my oldest son. When I start the car, he’s a bundle of ecstatic energy. But when I begin asking him about his day, his smile vanishes, and he locks his mouth up like a safe. The remainder of the trip is more nerve-wracking than an episode of Law and Order as I listen for any clue that will get him to open up to me.

My wife and I shared in our son’s excitement to start kindergarten this year. But now that he’s several weeks in, it has been difficult for us to gauge his enthusiasm. And as someone who found socializing at school challenging, I’m always concerned that other kids are bullying him or he is finding the curriculum hard to handle.

But getting kids to talk about their day has been a struggle of parents for generations. And judging from the plethora of articles that deal with this topic, the fight to find out what happens at school will continue to be waged within minivans and around dining room tables far into the future.

To aid in the struggle, we researched why children don’t talk about what happens after we drop them off—and share some strategies and questions that might encourage kids to open up.

Kids need to decompress after school

Even when adults arrive home from work, we often need (or would love to have) a few moments to decompress and allow our brains to shift from “work mode” to “caregiver mode.” And instead, when we are met with a barrage of questions and demands—What’s for dinner? Ugh, meatloaf AGAIN?—it can make us feel a tiny bit exasperated.

According to this article by the Washington Post’s Meghan Leahy, young children also need a moment to transition from school to “home.” But because they are younger, it’s harder for kids to make that shift:

[B]ecause children are young and immature, their brains are not adept at navigating the transition from “work” to home. When they are overwhelmed, their brains are fried. Children cannot hold on to their maturity when they are that tired. To add to this dynamic, children who are extra sensitive may show even more signs that they are overwhelmed.

Leahy recommends giving kids a few moments to decompress and waiting for them to open up. And when they finally do talk about their day, listen carefully to what they have to say: “See what happens when you do not allow your need to learn about [their] day to eat up the space and energy. Focus 100 percent on being a listener.”

Young kids don’t recall the day’s events the same way you do

One of the reasons why your child is stonewalling you when you ask about their day is actually more biological than psychological. The first significant stage of brain development occurs between the ages of two and seven. At this age, child neuropsychologist Alison Gopnik writes in her book, The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, that when asked about their day in general terms, kids are unable to engage because their brains can’t recall memories in the same way adults or even older kids can.

As frustrating as it is to get a standard reply from your child, they aren’t resisting your questions. One method to get them to open up is to use the itinerary of what goes on during a typical school day that most preschools and teachers give parents at the beginning of the school year. Gopnik suggests that can guide you in asking questions that help kids recall specific memories about what happened during their day and could spark a lengthier conversation.

Tell them about your day first

Unless you’re a movie star or, I don’t know, Jeff Bezos, chances are your typical workday is dull and monotonous—and there’s a good chance your child feels the same way about their day, too. Maybe the details about learning long division or who sat by whom at lunch just feel too mundane to recap. But Sara Ackerman writes for The Washington Post that when she started sharing her day with her daughter, her daughter returned the favor:

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a bus driver, or a stay-at-home parent because it’s not about the minutiae of the work. It’s about sharing what makes us laugh and what bores us, the mistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet. When I model this for my daughter, she is more willing to share the same with me.

What if you think they are being bullied?

One out of five kids experiences bullying, and between 25 to 60% of those kids don’t report it to a parent or authority figure. As startling as these statistics are, parents probably won’t stop the trend by directly asking kids if they’re getting harassed in school.

If you suspect your child is the victim of bullying, there are ways to get them to open up. According to HuffPost, parents should start asking simple, pointed questions about who they’re playing with and how it’s going. For example: Who did you play with today? What was that like? What are some things you like doing with other kids? What are some things you don’t like so much?

If that doesn’t work, you can use books, movies, and television shows that address bullying as a tool to help children open up or start the conversation about how children socialize with their peers. Even if your kid isn’t experiencing bullying, initiating these conversations will show them they can talk to you about these issues.

Source: Why Kids Don’t Want to Talk About Their Day (and How to Get Them to Open Up Anyway)

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Neuroscientist: Do These 6 Exercises Everyday To Build Resilience and Mental Strength

When I first began researching anxiety in my lab as a neuroscientist, I never thought of myself as an anxious person. That is, until I started noticing the words used by my subjects, colleagues, friends and even myself to describe how we were feeling — “worried,” “on edge,” stressed out,” “distracted,” “nervous,” “ready to give up.”

But what I’ve found over the years is that the most powerful way to combat anxiety is to consistently work on building your resilience and mental strength. Along the way, you’ll learn to appreciate or even welcome certain kinds of mistakes for all the new information they bring you.

Here are six daily exercises I use to build my resilience and mental strength:

1. Visualize positive outcomes

At the beginning or at the end of each day, think through all those uncertain situations currently in your life — both big and small. Will I get a good performance review? Will my kid settle well in his new school? Will I hear back after my job interview?

Now take each of those and visualize the most optimistic and amazing outcome to the situation. Not just the “okay” outcome, but the best possible one you could imagine.

This isn’t to set you up for an even bigger disappointment if you don’t end up getting the job offer. Instead, it should build the muscle of expecting the positive outcome and might even open up ideas for what more you might do to create that outcome of your dreams.

2. Turn anxiety into progress

Our brain’s plasticity is what enables us to be resilient during challenging times — to learn how to calm down, reassess situations, reframe our thoughts and make smarter decisions.

And it’s easier to take advantage of this when we remind ourselves that anxiety doesn’t always have to be bad. Consider the below:

  • Anger could block your attention and ability to perform, OR it could fuel and motivate you; sharpen your attention; and serve as a reminder of what’s important.
  • Fear could trigger memories of past failures; rob your attention and focus; and undermine your performance, OR it could make you more careful about your decisions; deepen your reflection; and create opportunities for changing direction.
  • Sadness could flatten out your mood and demotivate you, OR it could help you reprioritize and motivate you to change your environment, circumstances and behavior.
  • Worry could make you procrastinate and get in the way of accomplishing goals, OR it could help you fine-tune your plans; adjust your expectations; and become more realistic and goal-oriented.
  • Frustration could stymie your progress and steal your motivation, OR it could innervate and challenge you to do more or better.

These comparisons may seem simplistic, but they point to powerful choices that produce tangible outcomes.

3. Try something new

These days, it’s easier than ever to take a new online class, join a local sports club or participate in a virtual event.

Not too long ago, I joined Wimbledon champ Venus Williams in an Instagram Live workout, where she was using Prosecco bottles as her weights. I’d never done something like that before. It turned out to be a fantastic and memorable experience.

My point is that for free (or only a small fee) you can push your brain and body to try something you never would have considered before. It doesn’t have to be a workout, and it doesn’t have to be hard — it can be something right above your level or just slightly outside of your comfort zone.

4. Reach out

Being able to ask for help, staying connected to friends and family, and actively nurturing supportive, encouraging relationships not only enables you to keep anxiety at bay, but also shores up the sense that you’re not alone.

It isn’t easy to cultivate, but the belief and feeling that you are surrounded by people who care about you is crucial during times of enormous stress — when you need to fall back on your own resilience in order to persevere and maintain your well-being.

When we are suffering from loss or other forms of distress, it’s natural to withdraw. We even see this kind of behavior in animals who are mourning. Yet you also have the power to push yourself into the loving embrace of those who can help take care of you.

5. Practice positive self-tweeting

Lin-Manual Miranda published a book about the tweets he sends out at the beginning and end of each day. In it, he shares what are essentially upbeat little messages that are funny, singsongy and generally delightful.

If you watch him in his interviews, you’ll see an inherently mentally strong and optimistic person. How do you get to be that resilient, productive and creative?

Clearly, part of the answer is coming up with positive reminders. You don’t necessarily need to share them with the public. The idea is to boost yourself up at the beginning and at the end of the day.

This can be difficult for those of us who automatically beat ourselves up at the drop of a hat. Instead, think about what your biggest supporter in life — a partner, sibling, friend, mentor or parent — would tell you, and then tweet or say it to yourself.

6. Immerse yourself in nature

Science has shown again and again that spending time in nature has positive effects on our mental health. A 2015 study, for example, found that it can significantly increased your emotional well-being and resilience.

You don’t need live next to a forest to immerse yourself in nature. A nearby park or any quiet environment with greenery where there aren’t that many people around will work just fine.

Breathe, relax and become aware of the sounds, smells and sights. Use all your senses to create a heightened awareness of the natural world. This exercise boosts your overall resilience as it acts as a kind of restoration of energy and reset to your equilibrium.

 

By: Wendy Suzuki, Contributor

 

Wendy Suzuki, PhD, is a neuroscientist and professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University. She is also the author of “Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion.” Follow her on Twitter @wasuzuki.

Source: Neuroscientist: Do these 6 exercises every day to build resilience and mental strength

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What’s The Difference Between Sympathy & Empathy? Psychologists Explain

The suffix -pathy comes from the Greek word for “suffering,” pathos. The U.S. medical system is built around pathology, which simply means diagnosing suffering and treating disease. Similarly, mental health professionals find social connections critically important to the ways that people cope with and overcome suffering, grief, and trauma. Words like sympathy, empathy, and even apathy describe the nuanced differences between the very complex social connections and reactions humans display when we are suffering or when we witness others in pain.

While subtle behavioral differences might seem obvious to therapists, counselors, and psychologists, it’s not so easy for everyone else. So we spoke to Atlanta-based therapist Habiba Zaman, LPC, NCC, Pepperdine University professor of psychology Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D., and licensed clinical psychologist Bruce L. Thiessen, Ph.D., about simple ways to define sympathy and empathy—and their relationship to compassion.

Defining sympathy.

“Sympathy is when you understand someone else’s suffering and feel sorrow or pity for the experience they are facing,” Zaman explains. “It involves having a value judgment on someone else’s experience.”

While often well intentioned, this value-judgment-centered response often creates a palpable distance between the person in pain and the person who is listening. So, Zaman says, sympathy is often extended when a person doesn’t necessarily relate to, fully comprehend, or appreciate the circumstances of suffering facing someone they know or love.

“The emotion of sympathy is my experience of (reaction to) your situation. Sympathy lacks understanding,” Sultanoff adds. “When you are sympathetic, you get caught up in your own emotional reaction to how you are experiencing the world. This, for the most part, does not demonstrate any understanding of the person in distress.”

He notes that sympathy can create a barrier to understanding that can be activated because a sympathetic person may shift focus away from the person in distress to focus on themselves instead. Sympathy is the emotional reaction of the listener, who might say things like “I feel so sorry that this is happening to you,” or “I get so angry just listening to your story.” Other common ways it can show up are as pity (e.g., “I feel so bad for you”) or even as envy (e.g., “I’m sorry for your loss, but I sure wish I had as much time with my loved ones as you did”).

Defining empathy.

“When one expresses empathy, one draws upon personal experience, in relating to another person in the midst of a similar experience or hardship,” Thiessen explains. “An example of an empathetic statement might be, ‘I also have recently lost a loved one and know what it feels like to experience that deep sense of sorrow and grief.”

He says that this sense of commonality is a key differentiator between empathy and sympathy.

“Empathy is the ability to feel intimately and see the other person’s perspective. It is not just to understand what they are going through but rather, being able to walk in the other person’s shoes,” Zaman explains. “It is being able to say, ‘I am here to feel with you’ and let you know you are not alone.”

She adds that empathy is best defined by how the listener connects with the person in pain. Without judgment, an empathetic person would try to create and hold space for a person’s feelings and experiences. Empathy, which can be taught and honed over time, involves honoring how a person in pain sees their own situation, even if that is not how others might view it.

Understanding the key differences.

When it comes to understanding the key differences between empathy and sympathy, there are both internal and external factors to keep in mind. Sympathy and empathy are largely distinguished by external behavioral and performative aspects, which most people believe are a reflection of how the listener internally feels about the person who is suffering. Instead, the experts say that the difference is more about the relationship between the listener and the sufferer.

On the outside, sympathy often appears socially distant, like a one-off message of condolences, with no follow-up. Zaman says this is because sympathy lacks intimacy, but there may be situational reasons why that might be the case. In certain corporate settings or power structures, it might be appropriate to emotionally withhold to maintain decorum or to preserve group dynamics that extend beyond just the listener and the person in pain. Social dynamics and the appropriateness of displaying curiosity toward a person in pain might make a listener moderate their naturally emotive behavior.

“Sympathy is used in social situations where there isn’t an intimate connection between two people. It would be perfectly appropriate in a corporate environment to experience sympathy from coworkers or a boss. A card or flowers that share in acknowledging grief is perfectly acceptable and is expected in those environments because anything more could be perceived as inauthentic, unless that initial and genuine connection is there,” Zaman says.

Meanwhile, she says, that very same gesture of sending a card and flowers might be wholly inadequate for lifelong friends. Thus, the relationship and social context between the people involved is very important.

Also, no matter how close or distant the relationship, Sultanoff says that empathy is an internal experience of feeling caring, concern, and understanding toward another human being or living creature that is best shown through active and reflective listening.

“Responding by repeating back (but not parroting) what you heard from the other person, while especially attending to their feelings, demonstrates focus on the person and letting go of your own internal distractions,” he says.

In an attempt to be empathetic, a person who genuinely wants to help might share problem-solving advice, but Sultanoff says that this behavior does not necessarily show empathy for the other person’s immediate emotional state. In many ways, the difference between sympathy and empathy is the desire to understand the experience of a person who is suffering, not necessarily the drive to stop their suffering.

What about compassion?

“Both empathy and sympathy, when coming from a place of sincerity, are sensations and open expressions of compassion,” Thiessen says. After all, compassion, which simply means “to suffer together,” is an expression of caring and warmth.

He says that compassion from empathy typically comes from sharing similar experiences with another person, but compassion from sympathy can be just as useful. “For example, the act of researching the types of suffering experienced by an abused child might increase a person’s sympathy for abused children, regardless of whether or not the researching party had ever been a victim of child abuse,” offers Thiessen.

And this ability to extend emotions beyond one’s own personal experience is good because compassion allows humans to be motivated to alleviate harms they, personally, have never experienced.

“Expressions of compassion, be they in the form of empathy, or sympathy, or some palpable act of kindness, can be experienced as a healing balm on the psyche and the soul,” Thiessen says.

Moreover, that emotional inspiration can spark activism, philanthropy, or public advocacy in the service of moral causes that are far-reaching and socially impactful. In this way, actively cultivating compassion can allow an observer in one situation to be a force for change in many others.

The bottom line.

In the simplest of terms, empathy is an internal emotion that is directed outward toward another person, Sultanoff says. It demonstrates a true understanding of the other person, without any personal biases interfering with that understanding. Sympathy, however, is internally directed.

If you are watching someone in mourning or grief, empathy is focused on understanding the person in pain, while sympathy is focused on your reaction to watching that person deal with their pain. “From a mental health perspective, empathy is very healing, and sympathy is not,” Sultanoff says.

“Generally, it feels better to be the recipient of empathy than simply sympathy, because it allows for a point of connection and intimacy. Also, an expression of sympathy may be more difficult to trust unless it is coming from a genuine relationship and a place of genuine concern,” Thiessen summarizes.

All that said, both feelings can serve socially positivity purposes when tied with compassion and action.

Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D.

By :  Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D.

Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D., is an American writer and independent researcher with a particular interest in migration, literature, gender identity, and diaspora studies within the global

Source: Sympathy vs. Empathy: The Key Differences & Social Uses

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How To Adopt The Japanese Approach To Accepting Life’s Challenges, “Ukeireru”

Life since the coronavirus pandemic has been a lot to swallow. But in terms of how to cope and carry on, the best first step may indeed be accepting the realities we’ve faced, however difficult or grim.

In Japan, the concept of acceptance is fundamental to the traditional culture. There are many Japanese words that translate to “acceptance” – “ukeireru” is just one of the more current choices, but people may refer to the concept using others. Regardless of word choice, psychologists say acceptance is a value that can go far in helping us manage stressors big and small, from coping with a Wi-Fi outage to living through a global pandemic.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to accept who you are, what you do, and what society does to you,” explains Masato Ishida, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Okinawan Studies at University of Hawai`i at Manoa. It’s not the same thing as resignation, he adds. Rather, it’s more so accepting the current situation in order to make peace with it and either make the best of it or move on.

Shigenori Nagatomo, Ph.D., a professor of religion at Temple University specializing in East Asian Buddhism research, uses the English word “harmony” to describe how acceptance or ukeireru is part of Japanese culture. “Human beings are understood to be ‘beings in nature.’ Hence the importance of establishing harmony with it and with everything else in the world,” he says.

A lot of people in Japan have an aim-high, work-hard attitude, which makes it tough to accept anything less than perfect, Ishida explains. So this underlying way of acceptance helps in those times when everything doesn’t go according to plan.

How to embrace “ukeireru” in your own life:

Ukeireru goes beyond self-acceptance. It’s about accepting the realities that surround you, too – your relationships, your roles in the communities you’re a part of, and the situations you face – rather than fighting them, according to Ishida.

What’s more, psychology research tells us being more accepting of our own thoughts and emotions without judging them promotes improved mental health and helps us better cope with the stressors we do face. Scott Haas, Ph.D., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based psychologist, wrote a book on the topic of ukeireru after studying Japanese culture (Why Be Happy? The Japanese Way of Acceptance). He explains that by practicing acceptance, you make space in your life to move on from negative or unpleasant situations. For example: To find motivation to get a new job, you first have to accept you’re ready to move on from your current role — or, to start grieving the loss of a loved one, you have to accept they’ve passed away, Haas explains.

Acceptance is much different from resignation, which is when you submit to something you’re facing and give up in terms of making a change for the better, or getting out of that situation. Its also isn’t necessarily something you block out a half hour in your calendar to practice. Rather, it’s a mindset to guide your thinking day after day. Ishida describes it as a “slow-cook philosophy,” meaning the more you bake it into how you interact with people and the world, the more naturally you’ll find yourself using it in response to stressful and negative situations.

So how do you get started? Here are some tips:

Make time to connect with nature.

When it comes to accepting reality, the very ground we stand on is a good place to start, Haas says. Get a houseplant. Go for a walk. Spend more time outdoors! It will help you establish that harmony with nature that Nagatomo is talking about, which is fundamental to acceptance.

Recognize what’s actually stressing you out when you’re feeling wound up.

It’s going to be tough to accept situations if you’re misinterpreting what’s upsetting you, or what stressors you’re actually facing, Haas says. Are you arguing more with someone in your household because they’re behaving differently – or because you’re both stressed about the hardships brought on by the pandemic, for example? Are you really stressed about your dry cleaning not being ready – or because you have a big work deadline that week that’s putting you on edge outside of working hours, too?

“It doesn’t always feel obvious when you’re experiencing it,” Haas says. But oftentimes the problem isn’t you or the other person (in whatever situation you’re stressed about), it’s some underlying problem that’s ramping up tension. Try to practice connecting more with the root issue and not burying it with timely stressors.

Remind yourself that every situation is temporary.

We tend to feel stressed when we feel trapped, Haas says. And one way to make any situation immediately less stressful is to remind yourself that it’s temporary – and whatever unpleasantness or burden you’re feeling won’t last forever, he explains.

Practice mindfulness or meditation.

Take time to do things that help ground you in the present moment. Take time to do things that help you tune into your thoughts and feelings over the noise of whatever outside stressors you’re facing. Mindfulness and meditation practices can help you do this, Haas says – so can journaling, going for a walk by yourself, or listening to music. “Anything that helps you remove yourself from a situation to create space away from the stress can help enormously,” Haas says.

Make incremental changes.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t expect it to. Whatever new situation you find yourself in that you’re trying to accept and adapt to, do so by making small, incremental changes to your routine, Haas says.

For example, don’t compare a new significant other to your past relationships; but instead work to appreciate each trait that makes this person who they are. This kind of mindset can be applied elsewhere, too: Focus on making one new friendship at a time after moving to a new place, familiarize yourself with each process at a new job gradually, or learn to move with your body after a major injury (you won’t wake up on day one feeling back to normal!). It takes time for something new to become familiar, feel routine and truly meaningful to you.

Don’t be afraid to abandon routines that aren’t working for you.

And when it comes to adopting those new routines, be flexible. If something isn’t working, figure out something else to do, Haas says. For example, a lot of people picked up new hobbies (like baking bread, doing needle point, or birding) or habits to help them get through 2020 and the pandemic. If those routines are no longer making you happy, helping you find joy in the present moment, or no longer feel worthwhile in 2021 and beyond, move on and try something else, Haas says.

Be kind — to others and to yourself.

Remember, it’s okay to feel fear, sadness, or anxiety about all the uncertainty we’re experiencing right now. Rather than beat yourself up for those feelings or try to fight them, be kind and compassionate toward yourself. It’s part of acceptance, Haas says. You have to be okay with feeling the way you do. And then you can go ahead and figure out how you can make yourself feel better.

If your feelings of anxiety or sadness have become unmanageable, it’s important to seek out help immediately. Professionals at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a national nonprofit with local chapters in each state, can assist you in finding the appropriate resources to manage your anxiety at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.

By: Sarah DiGiulio

Sarah DiGiulio is a New York City-based writer and editor who covers psychology, mental health, fitness, sleep, and other health and wellness topics.

Source: How to Adopt the Japanese Approach to Accepting Life’s Challenges, “Ukeireru”

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More Contents:

31 Simple Tricks Experts Use To Stay Resilient, Hopeful, And Happy During The Toughest Times

Ikigai: A Japanese Concept to Improve Work and Life

Emotional Intelligence: The Social Skills You Weren’t Taught in School

What Happens to Your Body When You Wake Up at 5 a.m. Every Day

The Zen Rule for Becoming Happier: Change One Thing

As a Registered Dietitian, I Can Tell You That There Absolutely Are No “Bad” Foods

The Best Ways to Handle Teen Anger, According to Psychologists

5 Strategies for Coping With Social Anxiety, According to Clinical Psychologists

How to Deal With Your Childhood Trauma As an Adult

Recovering from trauma is hard no matter when it happens. However, if adversity happens during childhood, it can be especially hard to overcome. Unlike adults, children have very little control over their environment. If a child is living in an abusive home, their ability to remove themselves from that environment is extremely limited, whereas an adult will usually have more emotional and financial resources with which to escape.

Meanwhile, children are still learning what healthy relationships look like, as well as how to cope with difficult situations. If a child is growing up in a household where abusive behavior is the norm, this can skew their understanding of what is and is not acceptable within a relationship. Even when the trauma is unavoidable, such as a death in the family or a major illness of a family member, children are still developing their coping skills, which makes it that much harder for them to process what has happened.

So how can adults who experienced adversity in childhood process and deal with that trauma now that they’re grown?

How to measure your childhood trauma

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) quiz, is a measure of childhood trauma. The test itself is short—only ten questions—and asks about family adversity growing up, including physical or sexual abuse, neglect, and about family members with mental health struggles or substance abuse.

The higher the score, the more likely a person is to develop chronic health issues during adulthood, such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, asthma, cancer, obesity, coronary heart disease, and substance abuse. People who score a 4 or higher have a significantly higher risk than those who didn’t experience childhood adversity.

If you do have a high ACE score, knowing that these early experiences can have a negative impact on your health and well-being as an adult can be quite discouraging. However, it’s really important to remember that your ACE score is only an indicator of what you went through, not a guarantee of what your future will look like.

“Just because a person has experienced several ACEs, that doesn’t necessarily mean later problems are inevitable, that just makes them predisposed,” said Genevieve Rivera, executive director of the American SPCC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating parents and preventing child abuse. “We do have strategies, practices, tools, and routines that can help us to rewire our brains and our bodies.”

Start by seeking out professional help

“If you have a trauma history, if you have experienced childhood adversity, what you can do is get connected with support ahead of time,” said Melissa Goldberg-Mintz, a clinical psychologist and founder of Secure Base Psychology, PLLC. “That’s something you can do preventively.”

For people with high ACE scores, there is a strong probability they will develop issues such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, anger, and suicidal impulses. That is why it is essential to be proactive about seeking the mental healthcare you need. “It’s really important to have a professional in your corner to help guide you through,” Rivera said.

Seeking help is often the first, most essential step for working through the lingering effects of childhood adversity, and it can serve as a foundation for establishing a healthy, functional life.

Learn to recognize and develop healthy relationships

“Connection is the best medicine we have,” Goldberg-Mintz said. If a child going through adversity also experiences a warm, loving relationship—whether it’s a parent, grandparent, or caregiver—this will often provide a protective buffer against developing issues later in life. “The single best way we know how to deal with emotional pain is through connecting with people we feel securely attached to,” she said.

Adults who didn’t experience a loving relationship as children, however, can still work on developing healthy relationships later in life, which can help stave off some of these outcomes. Humans are social creatures. We crave connection, and if we don’t get it, our mental and physical health can suffer. Developing an understanding of what healthy relationships look like, and what the boundaries and expectations in those relationships should be, is key.

Make your physical and emotional well-being a priority

Given that childhood adversity can result in a number of chronic health issues later in life, whether physical or mental, it’s important to focus on caring for your physical and emotional well-being.

“You want to make sure your basic needs are being met,” Goldberg-Mintz said. This includes getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and connecting with others. “If you’re not getting your basic needs met, you are going to be more vulnerable to these bad outcomes.”

This can be challenging, especially because conditions like depression and anxiety make getting enough sleep or exercise especially difficult, the more you can focus on your own physical and mental well-being, the better.

Strengthen your resiliency

Resilience is the capacity to recover from adversity quickly. Some children who experience adversity are able to develop resilience, while others have a harder time. “Research shows that even just one supportive parental figure in a child’s life goes a long way toward helping them build this resilience,” Rivera said.

However, for those who struggled to build resilience during childhood, it’s still possible to develop these skills as an adult—and that goes back to seeking professional help and focusing on building those healthy relationships. Resiliency has a way of developing naturally when we do those things.

“We all have resiliency inside us, but we have to work on building it,” Rivera said. “Research has actually shown that our bodies experience a positive biological response when we’re surrounded by healthy relationships.”

Source: How to Deal With Your Childhood Trauma As an Adult

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Related Contents:

The Facts About Fat Burning and Running

If you’re reading this while sitting down, congratulations—you’re primarily burning fat. However, if you get up and start moving around your home, you won’t burn as much fat. And if you felt really active and broke into a sprint outside, you’ll be burning almost no fat.

While everything we just said is true, it doesn’t mean all you have to do is sit tight and watch your fat stores melt away. The common presentation of how to exercise to lose fat—presented in admittedly exaggerated form above—is misleading.

There’s no special “fat-burning zone” that’s key to getting lean. Here’s what you need to know about burning fat through exercise.

What Fuels Your Running?

Look at wall charts or cardio equipment in the gym, or listen to many personal trainers, and you’ll encounter the fat-burning zone. The standard advice for getting in this zone is to work out at about 60 percent of your maximum heart rate.

That level of exertion is relatively low-intensity. Runners can usually talk in complete sentences at this effort, which is an easy pace like you might run the day before a race or the day after a hard interval workout. Working in this zone, it’s said, will burn more fat, and therefore result in greater long-term weight loss, than doing the same exercise at higher intensities.

On the surface, there’s some substance to part of this claim, according to decades of research. At all times, your body fuels itself primarily by burning a mix of fat and glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrate in your muscles). The less active you are at a given moment, the greater the percentage of that fuel mix comes from fat. At rest, fat constitutes as much as 85 percent of calories burned. That figure shifts to about 70 percent at an easy walking pace. If you transition to a moderate-effort run, the mix becomes about 50 percent fat and 50 percent carbohydrate, and moves increasingly toward carbohydrate the faster you go.

One reason your body goes through this shift is because your brain runs almost entirely on carbohydrates, and it wants to preserve its limited carbohydrate stores. Although burning fat requires a lot more oxygen than does burning carbohydrate, there’s plenty of oxygen available when you’re at rest or working at a low intensity. As you start exercising harder, however, your body needs fuel more quickly, and turns more to carbohydrates.

This change in the fuel-burned ratio is why you might hit “The Wall” when trying to run a marathon as fast as possible, but you might not during an ultramarathon. A marathon run at faster than your normal training pace can use up all of the glycogen stored in your muscles. When that happens—usually in the final 10K—your muscles turn to fat to fuel your stubborn insistence on reaching the finish line. But burning fat requires a lot more oxygen than burning carbohydrate, so to meet that demand for more oxygen, you have to slow considerably, usually by a minute per mile or more.

In contrast, if you’ve ever run an ultramarathon, it was likely at a much lower intensity, probably slower than your normal easy pace. The percentage of each mile that’s fueled by fat is higher than at the faster pace of racing a marathon. So even though you might be running longer in an ultra, you’re less likely to have that sensation of having to suddenly slow significantly because of depleted glycogen stores. Even the leanest runners have enough body fat to fuel hundreds of miles at a leisurely pace.

There’s Burning Fat, and There’s Losing Weight

So, it’s true that at some workout intensities you’re burning a higher percentage of fat than at other intensities. But running a certain pace so that you burn a higher percentage of fat doesn’t magically melt fat away. And even if it did, the difference in total fat burned in running three miles slowly and doing the same distance faster is perhaps a couple dozen calories. That’s negligible in the grand scheme of things, given that burning a pound of fat entails burning about 3,500 calories.

More important, as Asker Jeukendrup, Ph.D., a leading sport nutrition researcher, puts it, fat burning and weight loss aren’t synonymous. Weight control is a matter of calories in and calories out. Burn more calories than you consume, and you’ll eventually lose weight. Do the opposite, and you’ll eventually gain weight. “If you burn more fat, but you eat more calories than the calories you burn in total, you will not lose weight,” Jeukendrup has written.

Because total calories burned is what matters, perhaps you can see another flaw with the “fat-burning zone” line of thinking: You could spend an hour walking three miles; of the roughly 300 calories you’d burn, a higher percentage would be from fat than if you ran three miles. But in that hour, you might run six miles, burning about twice as many calories.

If you want to get all geeky, the math in the following example (and in the graphic) argues against the fat-burning zone.

Walk three miles in an hour, and of the roughly 300 calories you’ll burn, about 210 of them (70 percent) will be fueled by fat. Run 10-minute miles for that hour, and of the roughly 600 calories you’ll burn, about 300 (50 percent) of them will be fueled by fat. Also, your metabolism stays revved up longer after vigorous workouts than it does after low-intensity exercise. While this postrun burn is likely only a few dozen additional calories, or less than the amount in a banana, every bit helps if weight loss is one of your goals.

The Real Reason to Consider Fat Burning as a Runner

Running at the gentle effort of around 60 percent of your maximum heart rate isn’t the key to weight loss, but there are still many reasons to regularly run at this pace.

Easy runs help you recover before and after harder workouts, they provide great cardiovascular and mental health benefits, and they’re simply enjoyable. Easy running also allows you to accumulate lots of mileage, and thereby burn more calories, if doing so is one of your motivations to run.

As for fat burning and running, perhaps the most important reason to care about the topic has to do with training performance, not weight loss. As we noted above, at sustained higher-effort levels, such as half marathon to marathon pace, your running is fueled by a higher percentage of carbohydrates than at slower paces. Run far enough at these paces, and you’ll start to deplete your muscle’s glycogen stores, and you’ll have to slow.

One of the main goals of marathon training is to become more efficient at burning fat when running these faster paces. If you can train your muscles to burn a little more fat per mile when running at marathon pace, then your glycogen stores will last longer, and your chances of holding a strong pace to the finish will increase.

The best way to accomplish that is by running not at a gentle jog, but at close to your marathon pace, with wiggle room of about 5 percent per mile faster or slower. For example, if your marathon race pace is 8:00 per mile, then run between roughly 7:36 and 8:24 per mile.

You can do these runs as stand-alone workouts, such as 6 to 10 miles at marathon pace after a 1- or 2-mile warm-up. You can also incorporate them into the latter part of your long runs, such as running easy for an hour and then running another hour at around marathon pace. When done a few times a month, sustained runs at these effort levels will improve your muscle’s fat-burning efficiency.

Starting some medium-length to long runs on an empty stomach, such as soon after waking up, and taking in no fuel during those runs, can also train your body to burn more fat at a given pace. It’s best to save these “fasted” runs for easy to medium-effort sessions. (Learn more about the good and bad of fasted cardio workouts here.)

All of this might seem like a lot to remember about fat burning. The key takeaway: Ignore claims you’ll lose more weight by running in a special “fat-burning zone.” Follow a good training plan, eat a well-balanced diet, and stay healthy enough to run the amount you want to, and you’ll likely settle at what for you is a good running weight.

By: Runner’s World / Runner’s World Editors

Source: The Facts About Fat Burning and Running

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References

  1. Shira Tsvi. Personal Trainer & Fitness Instructor. Expert Interview. 7 January 2020.
  2. http://www.active.com/running/articles/3-ways-to-burn-fat-effectively-while-running
  3. http://www.runnersworld.com/run-nonstop/how-and-why-you-should-warm-up-before-a-run
  4. http://www.fitbodyhq.com/cardio/running-tips-to-boost-fat-loss/
  5. http://www.runnersworld.com/ask-coach-jenny/three-mind-games-to-get-you-through-tough-runs
  6. http://www.active.com/articles/running-for-weight-loss-prepare-to-be-patient
  7. http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/your-perfect-running-pace
  8. https://www.runtastic.com/blog/en/veras-viewpoint/how-to-burn-fat-while-running/
  9. http://www.runnersworld.com/hydration-dehydration/prevent-dehydration-while-running
  10. 1 Running Distances for Fat Burning
  11. 2 Incorporating Alternative Components to Boost Fat Burning

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3 Critical Metrics You Need to Assess the Overall Health of Your Workplace

Early on in the summer, no one would fault you for exuberantly plotting your back-to-the-office plan. Hospitalizations for Covid-19 were waning and it suddenly seemed like life was once again approaching normal. However, with the more contagious Delta variant now spreading across the U.S., you’ll want to assess the potential health risks of opening up the office.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before bring employees back:

How safe is your physical workspace?

Your office or physical space may have been suitable for work prior to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it will be moving forward. One major example is air quality.

Business owners need to focus on having enhanced ventilation and filtration, says Dr. Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program and an associate professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Breathing and talking constantly admit respiratory aerosols that can build up indoors unless diluted out of the air or cleaned out of the air through filtration. And most buildings are designed to a minimum standard that was never intended to be protection against infectious diseases.

Before fixing anything, though, you have to know what your system is doing. Dr. Allen recommends every company “commission” their building, a process by which the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems of a building are tested for performance and functionality. “It’s the equivalent of giving your car a tune-up every year, and it’s not done enough,” Dr. Allen says.

There are also many ways to measure and verify the performance of your building, he adds. You can hire a mechanical engineer to determine how much air flow you’re getting. Low-cost real-time sensors can be used to verify ventilation rates. In a typical building, carbon dioxide concentrations are going to be about 1,000 parts per million, and ideally to slow the rate of infection levels, they should be under 800 parts per million.

And fixes don’t have to be laborious or expensive. Bringing a bit more outdoor air in can be as easy as opening windows or spending a couple of dollars to upgrade to quality air filters such as MERV 13 filters. Portable air filters are a bit more expensive at roughly $100 a piece, but they can greatly improve air quality.

How many employees are vaccinated?

You can absolutely ask employees whether they’re vaccinated, and if you’re bringing people back, or considering doing so, it’s not a bad idea. Northwell Health has done numerous surveys to assess their 15,000-person workforce to determine who is vaccinated and the reasons why those who have not gotten the vaccine are hesitant.

“When we started evaluating metrics around why people weren’t getting vaccinated, we got better insight into how to communicate with them and manage our concern,” says Joseph Moscola, executive vice president of enterprise services at Northwell Health.

One survey revealed that 7 percent of Northwell’s workforce didn’t get vaccinated because they were scared of needles. So the company crafted safe environments with music and comfortable chairs to help make the experience more inviting for those employees. Moscola says Northwell is aiming for a vaccination rate of 90 percent or higher before it considers its space safe. Currently 77 percent of Northwell’s 75,000 employees are fully vaccinated.

Also remind people of the risks of not getting a jab. While a vaccinated individual may still get Covid, they’re significantly less likely to have severe symptoms or be at risk of hospitalization than unvaccinated folks. That’s why it’s crucial to continue to encourage workers with any symptoms to stay home and get tested, as well as follow CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directives in the workplace. It’s also crucial to educate employees and your community on the advantages of vaccination.

Are employees are taking care of themselves?

One way to stay abreast of the physical health of employees is to check in and see if they’re taking care of themselves. This can be done through surveys, asking people if they describe themselves as healthy and well and also how often they take advantage of any medical benefits.

Self-insured employers also have access to claims data through their third-party administrator that can share general information like what percentage of employees had a primary care visit in the past 12 months, or what percentage of people have been seriously hospitalized, says Dr. Shantanu Nundy, chief medical officer at Accolade, a benefit provider for health care workers.

Consider also assessing how employees are doing mentally, he adds. You can ask employees to take surveys such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a psychological assessment comprising 22 symptom items pertaining to occupational burnout; the PHQ-9, a nine-question questionnaire measuring depression; and the GAD seven, a seven-item questionnaire measuring anxiety. Employees may not feel comfortable sharing this information, so it’s best to make it optional and tell employees that results are kept confidential.

Want some more information and tips?

Find more information on what you can do as an organization, manager or employee:

“While a lot of people are dealing with clinical depression or clinical anxiety, many are dealing with a new kind of emotional stress due to the pandemic, which can include not feeling safe or heard or included in the workplace,” says Dr. Nundy. “These surveys can offer a comprehensive clinical health and environmental view of how your workforce is doing.”

Source: 3 Critical Metrics You Need to Assess the Overall Health of Your Workplace | Inc.com

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More Contents:

Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

Safer Highways launched the first industry benchmarking exercise

HSE’s annual statistics on work-related stress, depression and anxiety

Study of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England training in UK workplaces

Your legal rights and responsibilities to reduce stress or risk factors

How comfortable are you with discussing your employees’ mental health?;

Creating a mentally healthy workplace: A guide for managers (PDF)

]Why you should offer mental health support to employees with physical conditions;

How managers can shape ‘healthy hybrid’ working

How to manage severe mental health problems;

Mental health: the costs to employees and businesses.

‘It’s okay not to be okay,’ in conversation with The Mental Health Runner

Developing a workplace mental health strategy: A how-to guide for organisations (PDF)

My experience of workplace stress, in an organization that didn’t see occupational stress as an issue: In conversation with Kate Field

‘We cannot underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health’

Work-related psychological health and safety: A systematic approach to meeting your duties

Neurodiversity is Not Enough. We Should Embrace Psydiversity

The concept of ‘neurodiversity’ has gained enormous cultural influence in recent years. Computer scientists and ‘techies’ wear the ‘neurodiverse’ label with pride; businesses are building ‘neurodiverse’ workforces; scriptwriters strive to represent and cast ‘neurodivergent’ people. Those framed as ‘different’ have been given a remarkable new lens through which to reimagine that variance.

The sociologist Judy Singer coined the term ‘neurodiversity’ in the late 1990s. Inspired by other emancipatory social movements based on race and gender, Singer used her standing as an autistic person to rally together neurodivergent people. This was partly a response to what Singer called the ‘social constructivist’ view of autism, where the condition was seen as having no solid biological basis.

This denied the reality of neurological difference, according to Singer. In reply, she offered up ‘neurodiversity’ in the spirit of biodiversity, in that it recognized and respected natural variance among humans. The movement quickly gained support via online forums and new social networks. Since Singer’s first use of the term, neurodiversity has widened beyond autism to include people who identify with categories such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, bipolar disorder, depression and more.

It’s come to mean any real mental differences – neither choices nor simply illnesses – that aren’t problems to solve so much as enrichments for society. Neurodiversity has done brilliant work in breaking down social barriers, challenging stigmas, and raising awareness. But it also contains limitations, and these are becoming increasingly prominent as the concept expands into new domains.

The main premise of the neurodiversity movement is that society should be robust enough to embrace and celebrate all people, no matter how their brains are ‘wired’. That’s a laudable goal and shouldn’t be tricky for anyone to wrap their head around. Yet since the beginning, critics of neurodiversity have claimed that its mantra of radical acceptance could hinder treatments and interventions for those who are suffering. Embracing neurodivergent thought too enthusiastically, they say, risks distracting from genuine physical, emotional or social needs that require attention.

This debate quickly descends into unhelpful recriminations. But it also distracts from a deeper philosophical problem that neurodiversity must confront as it expands into new territory. Neurodiversity’s vision of inclusion, alluring as it is, tends to rely on the idea that neural wiring is at the root of all differences in how humans relate to the world. But reducing diversity to brain-based distinctions can stand in the way of more sensitive and potentially fruitful ways of understanding mental life.

In fact, the success of neurodiversity has exposed the glaring lack of any shared vision or sense of solidarity around mental difference that isn’t anchored in brain-based accounts. So while we can applaud neurodiversity’s ethos of acceptance, we should question its commitment to achieving legitimacy through false ‘neuro’ certainties.

There is a different way forward, in which we fashion our political advocacy and scientific reasoning not on the brain but the ‘mind’. I call this programme ‘psydiversity’. Psydiversity rejects the claim that mental states can be cleanly and predictably mapped on to the brain. Instead, it augments the valuable work of neurodiversity by demonstrating that mental processes and the way we understand them change and evolve through history.

Indeed, psydiversity holds that the mind and ‘human nature’ are not unitary things, but are profoundly embedded and even constituted by the society and context in which they appear. That isn’t to deny the reality of difference, but rather to situate this reality as part of an unfolding social and historical process.

If there’s one aspect of neurodiversity that’s core to its agenda, it’s the ‘neuro’ prefix. The term ‘neuro’ actually stems from the ancient Greek ‘neûron’ or the Latin ‘nervus’, defining nerves or the nervous system. Contemporary neuroscientific approaches have their origins in the early 19th century, when physiologists such as Franz Joseph Gall, Charles Bell, and François Magendie used a combination of human anatomical studies and terrifying animal vivisections to identify the relation between brain, spinal cord and nervous system.

By the early 20th century, neurologists had created detailed maps of the brain and nervous system, and had named many distinct conditions such as cerebral palsy and hemiplegia. It wasn’t until the 1990s, though, that the brain sciences began to really assert themselves in other branches of human knowledge. Via new imaging and genomic testing technologies, evidence emerged that differences in human emotion and behaviour could be traced to differences within people’s brains.

This spawned a number of ‘neuro-’ prefixes that could be attached to subjects as disparate as ‘neuroeducation’, ‘neuroethics’, ‘neuroanthroplogy’, ‘neuroaesthetics’ and ‘neurolaw’. The former US president George Bush called the 1990s the ‘decade of the brain’, while the philosophers Fernando Vidal and Francisco Ortega declared that the neurosciences were leading us to believe that ‘we are our brains’.

Once a treatment or medical tool exists, social, financial and political forces tend to push up diagnoses. All this fervour sprang from the belief that brain-based sciences and genetic research could transform society for the better. When the Dutch geneticist Han Brunner claimed that deficiencies in the MAOA gene could be responsible for an increased propensity to violence, this inspired hopes that moral judgments about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour could be transformed into progressive scientific research and treatment.

There would be no more ‘evil’ people, merely malfunctioning brains. If human motivation could be identified at the molecular level, it could also be changed. From the 1990s, the neuroscientific dream was that unique behaviours and ‘mental disorders’ could be correlated with brain states and treated accordingly. In reality, though, most psychiatric diagnoses or conditions are not stable or static, don’t have simple ‘watermarks’ in the brain, and are often very difficult to treat.

What’s more, drug developments have often preceded the refinement of psychiatric categories and, disturbingly, treatments tend to lead to increased diagnosis – the opposite of the neuroscientific fantasy. This was the case with ADHD, where the development of amphetamine treatments coincided with large increases in diagnosis, while rates of depression moved in line with the production of Prozac and other antidepressant drugs.

The disquieting truth is that, once a treatment or medical tool exists, social, financial and political forces tend to push up diagnoses. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – the medical textbook that serves as the basis for most real-world psychiatric diagnoses but also most neuroscientific laboratory studies – is by no means an impeccable diagnostic tool, as the psychiatrist Allen Frances and others have argued.

Drug companies might tout theories that brain- and drug-based theories will be a panacea for all forms of mental suffering, but we are a long, long way from that becoming a reality. While this ‘neuro’ revolution didn’t ever come to fruition, it still opened the door for new dreams and aspirations. It was in this context that ‘neurodiversity’ came into being. While neurodiversity advocates can be critical of mainstream neuroscience and psychiatry, they have also created a curious alliance with these same disciplines.

Starting with its reframing of autism, the neurodiversity movement latched on to the scientific legitimacy of both the neurosciences and the DSM, without really acknowledging the critiques and other, competing interpretations of human mental life. It’s striking that autism itself is unique in the DSM. No other diagnosis spread so rapidly throughout the 1980s and ’90s. Most importantly, its expansion had nothing to do with the production of drugs, as in the cases of ADHD and depression.

The autism category is something of an anomaly, yet ironically it’s this anomaly that sparked the entire neurodiversity movement, which is now growing to encompass an increasing number of other DSM diagnoses. When neurodiversity originated, its dismissal of earlier psychological sciences was very much intentional. As an autistic woman in the 1990s, Singer understandably wanted a clean slate when it came to defining her identity. The dominant discourse around autism often involved blaming mothers for creating the condition in their children, drawing on the work of a number of postwar male psychologists such as Bruno Bettelheim.

By the 1970s, a new generation of psychologists argued that these claims were outlandish, because they did not even contain a clear definition of what autism was. Lorna Wing, a psychologist and the mother of an autistic child, then worked tirelessly to correct the conceptual drift by creating a standardized definition of autism as a kind of social and communication ‘impairment’. This was the definition that was solidified in the DSM in the 1980s, and which in turn invited genetic explanations.

Autism diagnoses shot up in line with the destruction of the postwar welfare state. Coming across all these descriptions and definitions in the 1990s, Singer was well placed to make her own claims of the development of her own identity. She didn’t want to adopt former models of psychological development that pathologised mothers and benign psychological differences. Yet she also didn’t want to adopt the label of ‘impaired’. The neurodiversity movement allowed for a new form of identity that was psychologically distinct, but didn’t see its members as lacking in some way.

Political categories are always a response to the conditions in which they arise. Singer sensed that her personal identity was under threat, and so rapidly set up a new framework on which to build a fresh one. As I have argued before, the diagnosis of autism slotted neatly into a neoliberal model of social welfare in the 1990s, where only those with defined social disabilities or ‘impairments’ received any social support.

In the UK, the US, Australia and elsewhere, these two factors combined such that autism diagnoses shot up in line with the destruction of the postwar welfare state. So when Singer advocated for political representation for autistic people in the 1990s, she could do so only because autistic people had already become a political class. Singer merely rallied the crowds, and she did so under the banner of neurodiversity.

What’s so wrong with brain-based or ‘neuro’ accounts anyway? All explanations of this sort rest on the premise that the brain gives us access to a scientific reality that can then be projected out on to the world to explain the immensity and range of human experience. This satisfies our craving for absolutes and certainties, and can even be the foundation of solidarity and meaningful identities. Yet human categories are almost always contingent, messy, uncertain affairs.

In fact, there are a number of other scientific models and working hypotheses that could help us get a handle on psychological development, although Singer relegated them to the bottom of the class. These are the ‘psy’ sciences we know today – psychology, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, psychotherapy. Just as ‘neuro’ has its origins in the Greek for ‘nerves’, ‘psy’ has its origins in the Greek for ‘psyche’, meaning the soul, mind or life.

The ‘psy’ sciences as we know them today sprang up in the decades either side of 1900, fuelled by Sigmund Freud’s ‘discovery’ of the unconscious. Freud exploded comfortable Western notions of the rational minds steering human history on an upward path to progress Enlightenment. Instead, he posited a theory of unconscious motivation, in which human beings were driven by ingrained, instinctual urges. These principles had a profound influence on educators, bureaucrats and governments across the world.

A strong adherence to ‘neuro’ explanations leaves scant room for wider theories of unconscious motivation. For most of the 20th century, ‘psy’ sciences dominated theorisations of the brain and nervous system. The creation of IQ testing in France in 1905 set the scene for the massive expansion of psychological sciences. In the early 1900s, psychological laboratories, institutions and departments began to be established, and psychologists distinguished themselves as a professional group.

Compulsory education and the growth of new communication technologies such as film, radio and TV in modern democracies supported this spread. ‘Psy’ sciences made huge contributions to all theorisations of the self, and of identity, and continue to be influential in the governance of everyday life via social, medical and legal services. For example, the creation of the juvenile court in the UK in 1908 united ‘psy’ and legal professionals to reframe juvenile crime in terms of psychological motivation rather than moral failing. It encouraged psychological programmes in schools, health centres and social service departments, a model that many other industrialised nations soon followed.

Crucially, earlier ‘psy’ sciences paid particular attention to how the mind adapted instinctual urges to cope with demands placed upon them by ‘civilisation’, offering new perspectives on the pressures of industrialisation and modernity. So when neurodiversity advocates turned their back on psychological theories in the 1990s, they turned away from much more than Bettelheim’s badly formulated theories of maternal love.

A strong adherence to ‘neuro’ explanations also leaves scant room for wider theories of unconscious motivation – and, in many ways, the social sciences as a whole, to the extent that these seek to identify underlying systems of thought and ideologies that guide human action. The development of new neuroscientific models in the 1990s, together with the internet and social media technologies, has catalysed new identity politics that destabilise prior ‘psy’ professional networks and created new models for identity.

These are vital developments to be sure, but it would be naive to think that they could replace some of the fundamental principles that have shaped wider understandings of human thought for more than 100 years. It’s essential to recognise the value of what the neurodiversity movement has achieved without unwittingly submitting to the rigid aspects of a wholly brain-based ‘neuro’ society.

Historically, both ‘psy’ and neurosciences have been mobilised to justify large-scale social injustices in democratic countries, from confinement to forced sterilisation and hormone treatments to ‘cure’ aberrant sexualities. We must be under no illusions here. However, it doesn’t make sense to denigrate one and eulogise the other. Indeed, often it’s psychologists taking a ‘softer’ approach to human motivation that’s served to ward off more draconian approaches to brain-based difference.

For example, when eugenicists such as Carlos Blacker in the UK equated ‘mental deficiency’ with social and economic redundancy after the Second World War in order to advocate for sterilisation, it was psychologists such as Neil O’Connor and Beate Hermelin who argued that psychological and social intervention was always preferable.

It’s striking that previous critics of ‘psy’ sciences rarely sought to radically dispose of all psychological knowledge. Take forerunners to the neurodiversity movement, such as the ‘anti-psychiatry’ and ‘psychiatric survivors’ movements that developed in the 1950s and ’60s. They were critical of how the psychiatric system had pathologised and damaged them, yet remained resolutely opposed to all brain-based or ‘neuro’ explanations for mental states.

This opposition was partly due to a postwar backlash against eugenic or hereditary understandings of mental illness or disability, which were bound up with the Nazis – a pushback that contributed to the proliferation of ‘social constructivist’ theories of mental states in the late 1970s and ’80s via charities, universities and a booming publishing industry.

It’s testament to how far we have come that neurodiversity advocates such as Singer can embrace even small aspects of neuroscience and genetics as part of a new social movement, let alone radically advocate for brain-based theories. The mind is always a historically situated object, regardless of its ‘neuro’ states

Anti-psychiatrists knew that the ‘psy’ sciences served an important role in empowering people, even if they’d been employed poorly in the past. In many ways, the anti-psychiatry movement integrated key psychoanalytic principles by employing historical knowledge to empower and galvanise populations to criticise the practices of psychologists. This was a psychoanalytically and historically informed kind of activism.

Instead of discrediting psychological sciences, the philosopher Michel Foucault and others played psychologists at their own game: ‘If you’re going to analyse where my identity “problems” came from,’ they might have said, ‘then I will analyse where your identity, legitimacy and power also came from.’ This was shrewd because it not only unchained the shackles that ‘psy’ professionals had placed on their own individuality: it also revealed how the psychological sciences wielded power through psychological experts, institutions and policies.

What Foucault called ‘historical ontology’ – the study of what makes being or becoming possible – asserted the importance of history, and of collective thought, to understanding contemporary minds. In some ways, this was just a highly refined form of self-reflective psychology. What it showed was that the mind is always a historically situated object, regardless of its ‘neuro’ states.

Psydiversity accepts that minds are entangled with the societies around them, and can’t be moored to neuroscientific verities – which are, in any event, a byproduct of the time as well. Psydiversity would move us beyond an unhealthy reliance on the knowledge monopoly of the neurosciences, and address the difficulties of stretching neurodiversity to cover all human differences.

None of this is to say the ‘psy’ sciences are perfect, and retooling them to fit our current needs should also involve critically assessing their influence on democracy and society. That influence cannot be overstated. In many ways, the ‘psy’ sciences are the cornerstones of modern democracies. Thinkers such as Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori, Susan Sutherland Isaacs, Edward Glover and Anna Freud gave shape to many ideas that have become fundamental to democratic functioning, such as the principles of early education and attempts to understand rather than punish children’s misbehaviour.

Today, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists have become the footsoldiers of liberal, economically prosperous nations. Through psychological theories, individuals and policymakers alike have learnt to harness human motivations, balancing citizens’ democratic freedoms against the necessity of laws and social norms.

Psydiversity aims to rehabilitate the positive features of such methods, without shying away from where they’ve hit walls in the past. The major problem with ‘psy’ disciplines isn’t necessarily the theories themselves, but their potential to be used as cudgels on behalf of narrow, controlled and regulated versions of the family, society or nation. One of the neurodiversity movement’s key achievements has been to expose the illogical nature of many such approaches.

Activists such as Steven Kapp and Damian Milton have pointed out, for example, that preventing behaviours such as tics and ‘stimming’ isn’t usually done for the benefit of the individual concerned but to maintain social norms and structures. This is correct, and there’s no doubt that the reach of psychological sciences must constantly be kept in check – but psydiversity also makes this possible by internalising a historical self-critique, maintaining a constant awareness of how and for whom knowledge is developed, employed and granted legitimacy.

Psydiversity conceives of our minds as being structured by science, yes, but also by law, society and history. Yet ‘psydiversity’ doesn’t simply skip along to the tune of prior ‘psy’ models. Rather, it aims to reclaim psychological knowledge for the populations it’s supposed to serve. It encourages a radical reframing of the psychological sciences, such that they are both historicised and variegated.

Instead of holding them out as seers or sages, psydiversity encourages psychological professionals to acknowledge the scientific foundations of their approaches and to make this clear at every point of practice: from the statistical sciences that support the DSM; the remnants of Darwinism and instinct theory that support psychoanalysis; and the computing metaphors that support the cognitive sciences. It is only by having an understanding of this history that we can hope to change it. Psychology has had, and continues to have, a role in shaping our understandings of ourselves that can’t simply be dismissed as we now stand in thrall to the new neurosciences.

In short, psydiversity creates a space for psychology to mediate the dogmatic aspects of contemporary neurosciences. It greatly values neurodiverse perspectives, but recognises that we live in a world that needs to move beyond identity politics and develop new models of the mind. Instead of grounding ‘the self’ in ‘the brain’, psydiversity conceives of our minds as being structured by science, yes, but also by law, society and history.

Crucially, it acknowledges that psychological and mental suffering is real, exists in many different forms, and often stems from stigmas or threats to one’s existence with deep historical origins. It’s fruitless to expect neuroscience alone to come to our aid here. The ‘neurodiverse’ tag is becoming more common and widely applied. Many contemporary psychological scientists such as the autism researcher Francesca Happé talk casually about the distinction between ‘neurotypical’ and ‘neurodivergent’ brains.

This has encouraged many debates and discussions about which conditions do or don’t qualify as ‘neurodivergent’. In turn, this makes researchers such as the former neurobiologist Mo Costandi worry that the legitimising power of the ‘neurodiverse’ label might encourage people to avoid treatment or engage in damaging thoughts and behaviours, such as anorexic aspirations. While this has nothing to do with the stated aims of the neurodiversity movement per se, the fact that it has put so much store in locating conditions in the brain clearly affects these narratives.

None of this is to deny the profound sense of solidarity that’s developed within the autism community via neurodiversity, which Steve Silberman eloquently described in his book Neurotribes (2015). The fact that the law has changed to provide specific protections for autistic people was absolutely necessary and correct. However, I question whether we really want to see a society in which DSM-based ‘neurotribes’ become the new political and social classes. It seems to me there’s a limit to the value that such categories can provide in terms of enhancing all human flourishing.

As the neurodiversity movement has shown, threats to identity often provoke unifying political responses. However, history teaches us that these threats shift over time, and that both ‘neuro’ and ‘psy’ categories react and change in turn. Nothing is certain now and for all time, not even a brain-based model of autism. Psydiversity encourages us to think about how to support people regardless of their individual or ‘neuro’ identity.

It offers another perspective from which to understand differences among people, and to celebrate them too. For a child recently diagnosed with ADHD, or an adult diagnosed with bipolar disorder, psydiversity will offer another dimension of understanding as to how they arrived at that point. Just as legal scholars recognise that it’s citizens who ultimately enforce any law via the legal system, psydiversity recognises that it’s individuals who ultimately interpret and implement information deriving from the neurosciences.

That can happen only via the involvement of ‘psy’ knowledge. If we are to genuinely acknowledge the value of all human life, we must first see the human mind in all its fluidity and complexity as our mediating instrument, rather than a detached, ahistorical object that neuroscience allows us to stand outside of. Psydiversity holds that the first step towards understanding the mind must be self-criticism and self-enquiry. This requires a psychology that’s aware of its own history, a psychology that recognises diversity, and a psychology that doesn’t just latch on to existing neuroscientific categories. After neurodiversity, we have a responsibility to explore the wider implications of how humans think. The challenge is to do so without losing our minds.

By: Bonnie Evans

Source: Neurodiversity is not enough. We should embrace psydiversity | Aeon Essays

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How To Deal With Toxic Workplaces and Office Cliques

Workplace cliques can affect your career progression and even your mental health. Here, women describe how they moved on from toxic workplace environments.

Remote working left us all feeling more distant from our work colleagues – but for some, a return to the office doesn’t mean restarting much-missed friendships.

43% of workers say that cliques are a feature of their workplace, and while not being invited out for lunch might seem like a relatively small slight, it can have deep emotional repercussions. Far from being an easily ignored snub, exclusion from workplace cliques can have a major impact on career progression, mental health, and work wellbeing.

Gaslighting at work: “I had the worst experience with my boss, but I learned one thing from it”

Rachel*, 32, lives in south-west London. She was forced to go freelance after she was the victim of an office clique while working in the magazine industry.

When I joined an interiors magazine, the office was painted as a female-led creative workplace. In reality, it was an extremely vicious environment. I quickly noticed that at lunchtimes the same groups of girls would dash off together. When I asked if I could join them, it became apparent that I wasn’t welcome. It was an environment fuelled by backstabbing, and I found that everyone’s workload [was based on] whether or not they fitted in with the dominant crowd.

There was a particularly bossy woman who was definitely the queen bee in our part of the office. I could deal with not being invited to lunch, but when she started actively sabotaging me – deleting files and unnecessarily returning all of my work and telling me to start again – I realized that I was never going to progress in that office. I was often the last person to receive meeting notifications or press releases, which made my job an awful lot harder. I pride myself in always trying to be kind and genuine, so I couldn’t see what I’d done wrong.

It wasn’t just my peers who were very cliquey. My manager was also in the group of women who excluded me, which meant that I felt powerless. Although I eventually went to HR, I was ultimately told that I was making up issues and was unfit for work. Looking back, it seems ridiculous that something like that was allowed to go on. It made every day horrible and going into the office unbearable.

Being excluded really impacted my mental health. I wanted my career to be a reflection of my work, not who I’d built a fake relationship with. The office was toxic, and I finally decided that I would rather work on my own and went freelance. After having such a terrible experience with workplace cliques, I’ll never go back to an office if I can avoid it.

Amber*, 33, from Shropshire made the decision to leave a large PR agency after feeling excluded from a workplace clique.

My previous workplace was utterly toxic. The office was dominated by a group of young and predominantly female graduates who ruled the roost in terms of popularity, praise and the unwavering support of the managing director. The office environment was so volatile that you never knew what to expect everyday – from huge celebrations with gifts and free lunches to being berated by your boss.

I realized how cliquey the office environment was when I found out that there was a separate group chat for about 25 employees to plan nights out and social activities. The group was deliberately hidden from other staff, and I’ve since heard that it was regularly used to discuss the shortcomings of colleagues.

On one occasion, a co-worker and I discovered that there was a bottomless brunch being organized – we made it known that we wanted to be involved, but on arrival we were essentially stood up. It turned out that our colleagues had deliberately gone to another venue without telling us.

Unfortunately, there was no HR department for the business, as the managing director claimed that he could handle it himself. However, when I went to him with a complaint he defended the behaviour of my cliquey co-workers. Knowing that I was being deliberately excluded was awful. It made me feel that I was doing something wrong – that I was unlikeable and unworthy of friends at work. My mental health was in tatters.

Days after I went on maternity leave, my parents and husband all commented that the ‘old Amber’ was back. It made me realize how terrible my workplace was, and the impact that it was having on me, and I decided not to return to my job. I now work for a much smaller company, which has been wonderful.

Sophia Husbands is a career coach and founder of The Go Getter. She shares advice on dealing with a cliquey workplace.

1) Communication is key – you need to demonstrate that you are in a place of business and are here to get a job done. Try taking individuals from the group aside and identifying common work objectives that create shared ground.

2) Try to find commonalities with colleagues, both within and outside of the clique. Even working remotely, you can send people a message to say ‘good morning’ or ask them about themselves. This can also be really helpful in changing the clique’s perception of you – you may find that they are basing their behavior on preconceived notions, perhaps because of jealousy.

3) Remember that you can still be empowered as an individual – you don’t have to be part of a clique to excel in your career. If you find that work cliques are impacting your self-esteem, try creating a ‘success file’ of your achievements. These don’t have to be just professional – it could be being a good aunt and taking your nieces to a museum for the first time, or a thank you note from someone that you’ve mentored. This will help to boost your confidence and remind you that you are a valuable team member.

4) Approaching HR or a manager can be a sensitive situation. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, consider first speaking to someone who has some distance from the situation. It could be a colleague from another department that you trust and respect. This will allow you to get neutral insight before making a decision on whether to approach a manager or HR. If you do decide to escalate a complaint then remember to be factual rather than emotional – you don’t want to be caught in a ‘he-said she-said’ scenario, so focus on providing information and context.

5) If you believe that you are being excluded at work as a result of discrimination you should raise this in a way that feels comfortable and safe to you. It’s best to take this to HR or a senior person that you trust – in many cases you may be able to do so anonymously. Often issues of racism or sexism are a problem with company culture and can have a very damaging impact on your mental and physical health, so HR have a duty to protect you.

By: Katie Bishop

Source: How to deal with toxic workplaces and office cliques

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