Brain and Behavior Articles

Being Able to Hear Yourself Think

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

head_workingHow many thoughts do we have in a day? There seem to be several conflicting numbers in the current literature, ranging from 12,000 to 80,000 per day.

With this high volume of mental activity, not all of our thoughts can be true, useful, or noteworthy. We often act like our thoughts are gospel truth and allow them to dictate our moods and reactions. We are human, and that’s what we do, until we have a method, rationale, or motivation to do otherwise.

What to Do About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

What to Do About Seasonal Affective DisorderFor me it comes on in the fall. I don’t really know why. I much prefer the cooler, grayer weather to the hard sun of summer. But around September of every year I start to feel the weight of the world.

It’s not so much depression as it just a general feeling of being fed up with everything, of not wanting to deal with the frivolous and not seeing the point in the day-to-day stuff I have to do.

How Gratitude and Kindness Go Together for Brain-Changing Happiness

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

How Gratitude and Kindness Go Together for Brain-Changing HappinessYou are probably not interested in my personal opinions about gratitude. If you read something about gratitude, you want to know that it’s not just relevant to me but to you as well. Well, at least I hope that’s what you want. That way you might try something that will make a big difference to your day, maybe even transform your life. That sounds like a big claim. But recent neuroscience and psychological research back me up here, and so do my personal experiments.

How to Be Happy

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

How to be HappyHappiness is a tough one.

We spend a lot of our time and billions of dollars trying to obtain happiness. Inevitably, though, we find ourselves back in the grind: dreading going to work, dreading doing the myriad errands and responsibilities it takes to live as a human being in this multifaceted world.

The thing about happiness, though, is it’s not supposed to be constant.

Want to Break that Good Habit Just Once? 5 Tips to Avoid Backsliding

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

pieslicesI’m working on Better Than Before, a book about how we can change our habits. The most fascinating subject ever.

In it, one thorny question that I tackle is: How can we make an exception to a good habit, without disrupting that good habit altogether? After all, sometimes we do want to break a habit — to take advantage of a rare opportunity, say, or to celebrate.

Porn Addiction: Not the Whole Story

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Porn Addiction: Not the Whole StoryThe issue of whether porn addiction is real has produced a storm of controversy. Yet all this noise may be distracting us from a graver risk to healthy sexuality: sexual conditioning of adolescents.

I monitor a number of popular online recovery forums. I have read self-reports of thousands of otherwise healthy young men who heal severe symptoms, including sexual dysfunctions (anorgasmia, delayed ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, loss of attraction to real people) by removing a single variable: Internet porn use.

The Heartbreak of Mental Illness

Monday, September 29th, 2014

The Heartbreak of Mental IllnessI was talking to a friend the other day who is a clinician at a home for people with mental illness, and I told her I know what it’s like to suffer. She said something that struck a chord, though: she said she thought it was more a case of heartbreak than anything else.

I had never heard it described that way before, but I knew exactly what she meant.

I can remember when I was first diagnosed. I was so crushed by the label of schizophrenia that I could hardly will myself to do anything. I was in fact, heartbroken.

Sleep and Light Exposure

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Sleep and LightThe information and research findings on sleep are coming fast and furious these days. There seems to be a backlash to the cult of productivity and the former “badge of honor” for functioning on the least amount of sleep. There is a recurrent theme, which is that by not making restorative sleep a priority, there are both short-term and longer term negative consequences.

The negative impact of too much artificial light has become increasingly more relevant, as many of us are using multiple light-emitting devices right up until when our head hits the pillow. If you are interested in the optimal functioning of the human organism, it’s time to evaluate your sleep quantity, quality, and routine, as well as your exposure to both natural and artificial light.

Adapting to Change

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Adapting to ChangeThe leaves soon will turn into the familiar shades we love to remind us that the seasons change and nature transitions. People also experience transitions requiring adjustment. We experience loss, whether it be in the form of a person, pet, place, job, habit, or object. We experience loss in the form of change. We experience loss within ourselves.

Loss is scary. It is unsettling and can feel overwhelming. With it, feelings of sadness, nostalgia, anxiety, and confusion may arise. It is difficult to fully accept loss. After the immediate loss, the brain rejects change and resists adapting to the new version of what your life will be. Resisting change only intensifies our reactions of fear and panic.

Rejecting or Embracing the Sacred in Meditation

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Rejecting or Embracing the Sacred in MeditationI recently taught a class in creative contemplation that was based on Lectio Divina, or divine reading. It is a practice undertaken by contemplative Christians and monks in which one completely surrenders to the voice of God as inspired by a line of scripture.

I have no real allegiance to Christianity, other than my upbringing, and presented the practice in a completely secular course. Much modern meditative and contemplative forms are presented this way. Centuries-old sacred traditions are stripped of theology and much underlying philosophy as a means of adapting each to a stressful, material world. It is sort of like insisting that prayer without an object or spirit to pray to will bring about a miracle. The act, not the deity, holds the influence.

You Don’t Have to Do Everything Perfectly

Friday, September 26th, 2014

self-image-meme

One of my biggest struggles is the fact that I feel like I have to do everything just right. There’s some small part of me that kind of panics if I don’t do things correctly, or the way I imagine they should be done.

8 Practical Suggestions for Parents of Kids with ADHD

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

help-kids-navigate-computers-online-digital-useThe school year is back upon us, and parents of kids with ADHD probably could use some support and tips. So here are some suggestions:

1. Manage your expectations.

Children with ADHD have a legitimate neurological condition that impairs planning, organization, impulse control, focus, and attention. ADHD cannot be cured, but it can be managed with teaching strategies, accommodations, practicing difficult skills, and, sometimes, medication.

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