Brain and Behavior Articles

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.

How to Know if You’re Truly Resilient

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

How to Know if You're Truly ResilientIf there’s a word people in the top ranks of human capital are buzzing about these days, it’s resilience. I get asked all the time what it means — followed by questions about how to get more of it.

I’ve done lots (and lots) of reading and thinking and speaking about resilience. I’ve watched it in action, experienced it myself, and heard more than one person oversimplify it (“The ability to bounce back,” for instance), while hearing others attempt to explain it biologically and psychologically (and go on far too long).

The fact is, resilience in a person is far more than a tough-as-Teflon surface or rubbery resolve that helps you rebound from stress or disappointment.

Yet Again: A Blood Test for Depression? I’m Not Holding My Breath

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Yet Again: A Blood Test for Depression? I'm Not Holding My BreathThe news articles are breathless. “Objective Blood Test Can Diagnose Depression,” “Blood Test Flags Depression, Predicts Treatment Response,” and “There’s A Blood Test That Can Diagnose Depression!”

Wow! That’s just darned amazing. You mean we can draw blood from a patient (in a lab, which is usually some place separate you have to go to than the doctor’s office for many in America), send it off for processing, and two weeks later, get a result to see if the person has depression?

Or, you can take an objective, scientific screening quiz — like this one — in about a minute or two and have an instant result. Which is more amazing again??

Deja vu is setting in… like we’ve covered this topic before. And, in fact, we have. Not just once, but more that a few times.

Managing Anger

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Managing AngerRegulating emotions is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and others in your environment.

Emotional regulation is really about the ability to bring yourself back on even keel, to calm yourself down when you are distressed, to lift yourself up when you are feeling dejected, and to help yourself feel better. It is about being able to restrain yourself from destructive actions and point yourself in the direction of constructing, value-creating actions.

Emotions provide us with information, and by acknowledging them and redirecting them as needed, we become less a victim of our thoughts and feelings and more of a responsible steward of them.

Stigma and Publicity

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Stigma and Publicity#DoubtfireFace Challenge for Suicide Prevention? Never heard of it.

The ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” is undoubtedly one of the most successful and engaging fundraising efforts in recent history. The challenge, which involved posting a video of yourself getting doused by a bucket of ice water, quickly gained popularity and became a social phenomenon. Teens, adults, celebrities, and politicians (including former President George W. Bush) all took part in the challenge, with their videos gaining tens of millions of views.

Suggestions for Parents with Children in Therapy

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Suggestions for Parents with Children in TherapyI greet you in the waiting room, and ask if you need to let me know anything before I bring your child back to my office.

You usually say “no,” and likely wonder what is going on behind that therapy wall for the next 50 minutes.

Yes, parent of my patient, it is my job to keep you involved while still maintaining your child’s confidentiality. Achieving that balance often requires me to offer you general suggestions on the basis of my experience and research as opposed to explaining to you what your child has revealed in therapy.

Quieting the Voice of the Devil on Your Shoulder

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Quieting the Voice of the Devil on Your ShoulderI often equate having schizophrenia to having a little devil on my shoulder that likes to whisper nasty stuff in my ear.

He’s a cunning little jerk, too. If he senses a vulnerability or the potential for anxiety he’ll start screaming.

In the eight years I’ve lived with the illness I’ve come to recognize these triggers and do a pretty good job of avoiding them. You can’t do it forever, though, and eventually the devil is gonna start screaming again.

Psychology Around the Net: September 20, 2014

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

overcome-test-anxiety

Blood tests for depression, happiness in the workplace, and tricking your brain to be more productive — it’s all in this week’s Psychology Around the Net.

Study Diagnoses Med Test Anxiety: Tend to “freak out” when it’s time to take a test? This recent Yale study suggests a possible treatment for what’s known as “test anxiety.”

Key Brain Connection Slow to Develop In Kids With ADHD: Recent studies show that, in children with ADHD, the growth and connections within and between key brain networks lags behind those of children of the same age without ADHD.

How to Let Go of Guilt and Regret and Forgive Yourself: Try these five ways to forgive yourself, despite the guilt and regret you might initially be feeling.

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