Brain and Behavior

Mom Knows Best: Overcoming Life’s Hardships

Life bruises. For others, it cripples. And, for a select few, it empowers.

As we marvel at others’ resilience during uncommon adversity, what lessons are applicable to our lives?

On a gloomy October day, the doctor’s diagnosis numbed us. “Pancreatic cancer,” he spat out. My aunt and I recoiled. The word -- cancer -- buzzed in our ears. Shoulders slumping, our mist-filled eyes met. We were dazed; cancer happens to others. Not our familial matriarch.
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Addiction

Instant Gratification: When Right Now Means 5 Minutes

“If you act right now -- right this very instant, you can own this shimmering, heart-shaped pendant for the budget-busting price of $250. But you have to act this very moment,” a caffeinated TV blowhard shrieks into your television screen.

You cackle, questioning the (in)sanity of anyone spending $250 on a cheesy pendant. As the cackle disappears, you lean back and contemplate your own spending habits. You, self-described Mr. Thrift, just dropped $250 on a pair of must-have sneakers. The problem: Your exercise regimen consists of walking past the gym.

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Anger

6 Tips for De-Escalating an Argument

Arguments are a part of most relationships, friendships, and workplaces. Humans are social creatures, and inevitably we will come across a person's perspective or a topic area with which we disagree. While we try our best to be respectful, it can be difficult keeping things neutral.

If arguing is a normal part of life, how do we do it better? How can we de-escalate an argument, keeping a minor disagreement from turning into a major blowout?

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Bipolar

Kindred Spirits

As a mentally ill person, I try to surround myself with others who have mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder. Since I am always talking, I find that I am normally asking “do you do this too?” questions. Recently my “do you do this too” question was “I hate to shower. Do you hate them as badly as I do?” The answer I got was a very certain “yes.”

Then I felt better that I can’t stand to shower. I do it because it would be wrong not to. However, it takes a lot out of me to do so. I truly get in the shower and cringe. It makes me uncomfortable and I try to talk myself through them.

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Brain and Behavior

Getting to Know Your Three Brains: Part 1

Happy relationships make happy people. Perhaps the most important relationship we have is the one with our self. In fact, the better the relationship we have with our self, the better we feel, the easier life is and the better relationships we have with others.

When we judge our self harshly, we tend to judge others harshly as well. There is a direct correlation between how we treat ourselves, how we feel and how we treat others.

Regardless of whether you believe it, you do have power to change for the better. How do I know this? I know this because in my journey to become a health care professional, I had the great fortune of learning about the brain. This knowledge helped me tremendously.
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Brain and Behavior

The Thought Police

Embrace the thoughts.

I have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Like you, my mind burps out intrusive, unwanted thoughts. They are real, striking at my core. I would banish them immediately. They would return with a sinister vengeance. Languishing in bed, sheets draped over me, I pleaded for divine intervention.

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Anger

Safely Communicating Negative Emotions

I will never forget the last scene of the 1975 movie, “The Stepford Wives.” I was only 14 at the time, but I understood the chilling implication: Meticulously coiffed, serene ladies -- even if they had to be turned into robots -- were more desirable than the messy, emotional women who openly expressed their feelings.

Unfortunately, this exaggerated tale exemplifies a deeply rooted theme in our culture, which is still alive today. That is, women have been taught and are encouraged to keep their negative emotions, such as anger and frustration inside, while maintaining an outward demeanor of calm cheerfulness.

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Brain and Behavior

The Healing Power of Hugs

One day several years ago, I spontaneously hugged a patient of mine, Gretchen. It was during a moment in which her despair and distress were so intense that it seemed cruel on a human level not to reach out my arms to her, in the event that she might derive some relief or comfort from an embrace. She hugged me for dear life.

Months later, Gretchen reported to me that the hug had changed her. “The motherly embrace you gave me that day,” she said, “lifted the depression I have had all my life.”

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Anxiety and Panic

How Do You ‘Do’ Fear?

We all feel fear at various moments in our lives. But we differ dramatically in how we “do” fear. Here are a few stories that illustrate what I mean:

Jake’s style: “Safety First”


When Jake feels fear, he has a knee-jerk reaction to retreat into safety. His favorite refrains are, “It’s too difficult” and “I can’t.” As you might imagine, his approach to fear has impeded his ability to move forward in his career and in relationships, despite his wanting to do so.
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Binge Eating

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Weight Management

Countless people feel unhappy with their bodies. Some have eating disorders, and many others deal with issues surrounding weight management. They may have tried the standard self-help techniques, from exercise and dieting to grueling weight loss programs, without success.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective and widely used therapeutic approach that can be applied to issues including self-esteem, body image, and weight management.

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Brain and Behavior

The Need to Struggle

Are you tired of struggling? Do you want to reach your goals without having to work so hard? Do you yearn for the glamour without the grit? Achieve! Accomplish! Actualize yourself! Yes, you want to do all those things. But why does it have to be so hard?

It used to be fun. You were excited about stuff. As a kid, you wanted to do everything. You picked...
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Brain and Behavior

The Joy of Giving

In The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm wrote: “Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.” The more we give, the more we experience the world as the creation of our efforts and as a reflection of our aliveness. In the well-being of individuals that we support, we experience our aliveness. In the growth of communities to which we are genuinely dedicated, we experience our aliveness. The entity that we care for, whether it is a community, a fellow human being, or any living or nonliving form, is the source of our empowerment. In it we see our power; through it we feel alive.

For experimental psychologists, a cause and effect relationship, no matter how plausible and beautiful it sounds, cannot be accepted unless it is confirmed by means of experimentation. To test whether giving contributes to our well-being and whether giving is more joyous than receiving, Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues conducted an experiment at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

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