Is Your Diary the Ultimate Self-Help Tool?

If you keep a diary or journal, you are not alone. In fact, in a recent study, 83 percent of girls ages 16-19 are reported to be keeping a diary, and most of them say they keep their highly personal reflections offline. How prevalent is keeping a journal or diary? Google Scholar had over 36,000 entries in 2013 alone on the topic.

You also are in good company.

Presidents George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Harry S. Truman, and writers Lewis Carroll and Virginia Woolf all kept a diary. Then, of course, there are famous ones. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is written about her life in hiding from the Nazis from June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944 during World War II. The diary was a gift given to her on her 13th birthday, the day she first began writing in it, and is considered to be one of the top books of the 20th century.

Evidence suggests that keeping a journal -- which includes your thoughts about events in your life and how you feel about those events -- can help you cope with the past. It also can help you reach your goals for the future. This is called expressive writing.

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Miracle on 38th Street: Micro-Changes & Majestic Moments in a Philadelphia Cab

“Happiness is when you give the love…” -- Philadelphia cab driver

Elevation results, when the right kind of tone and the right kind of emotions, with the right kind of rhythm and respect, become integrated with the right kind of themes to form a vibrant life-philosophical line of thought. -- Finnish practical philosopher Esa Saarinen

“Don’t get out; it’s too cold,” I told the cabbie. “Just pop the trunk.”

He did. I put my bags in the back and slid into the cab. “38th and Walnut, please.”

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How Much Grit Have You Got? Duckworth Will Help You Find Out

"Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways." — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Angela Duckworth operates the Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, which studies the interplay between grit and self-control. According to the website: "Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and...
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A Close Encounter with Thich Nhat Hanh

I was eating my California wrap outside at a local coffee shop in Boston when without reason I began to weep. Tears began rolling down my face, which made me feel as if I were sitting in a steady rain. It was as if my eyes had suddenly sprung a leak or a nearby sprinkler had found me.

Initially I didn’t have any feeling, but within seconds after the tears began like a fountain, I felt what seemed like an inconsolable pain -- a deep sorrow that grew in intensity. It was as profound and moving as any emotion I’ve ever had.

Within the space of a brief moment I had gone from enjoying my lunch at a sidewalk café on a beautiful late summer day in Boston to a crying, blubbering mess. What the hell was going on?

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Mental Floss: How Meditation is Like Brushing Your Teeth

A colleague challenged me the other day while we were waiting for the elevator about the value of meditation. She gave me a very hard time.

“I don’t understand why you positive psychologists get your undies in a bunch about meditation,” she said, “I tried it and I think it is the stupidest thing in the world. Stop your mind -- and breathe.”

“Well,” I began, “it really isn’t just about trying to stop your mind. Often it is about breathing, but I really think if you believe it is stupid it probably isn’t going to work.”

“See -- you have an answer for everything. So if I think it is going to be stupid, then it is going to be stupid. You always put it back on the person. If meditation is going to work, why do I have to believe in it? Why doesn’t it just work?"

“How often have you tried to meditate?” I asked, trying to keep from responding.

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The Reciprocity Ring: A New Take On Giving

When Irvin Yalom did his pioneering work in the 1970s on group therapy he included altruism, vicarious learning and hope among the original therapeutic factors. Forty years later a new application of group dynamics has emerged with renewed vitality: Welcome to the Reciprocity Ring®.

In Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Adam Grant has awakened a method for engaging the act of giving and receiving. He is a gifted storyteller and a consummate teacher and researcher. As the youngest tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, he has put forth a precisely organized and exceptionally well-crafted book.

He uses several methods to make his point. Among them he includes expertly constructed true stories, case studies, research and a very rich chapter on resources for information. Make no mistake: This is not another business book with some ideas about doing more and better business.

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Bed & Bored: The Element of Surprise in Making Love Last

“Love withers with predictability; its very essence is surprise and amazement. To make love a prisoner of the mundane is to take its passion and lose it forever.”
~ Leo F. Buscaglia

"Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays."
~ Henny Youngman

If I were going to create a bumper sticker for a good relationship it would be:

“Keep it Fun; Keep it Fresh; Keep it Real.”

Even the most cynical and contemptuous couples soften when I ask them to tell me how they met...

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Brain and Behavior

Down in the Dumps? Garbage Pickers with a Happy Life

A recent article published in the Journal of Positive Psychology surveyed the life satisfaction of 99 garbage pickers in León, Nicaragua. Researcher Jose Juan Vazquez interviewed these difficult-to-access individuals and found that not only are they happy, there is no correlation whatsoever to their financial well-being.

This is one of those studies that take a moment to get your mind around.

Imagine you are an itinerant individual living in absolute penury in a third-world country. You survive by going through other people’s garbage and extracting your food for the day as well as other essentials like clothing and footwear. You live your life hand to mouth and what your hand finds are the things others have discarded. You recycle what you can for money, and this considerable effort earns you about $3 a day.

By downward social comparison, almost anyone seeing a person living in these conditions would assume the individuals engaged in this activity would resent their life circumstance and view their life as anything but happy.

But this study shows this is a false assumption.

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Moving from What’s Wrong to What’s Strong: Introducing Positive Psychotherapy (PPT)

Traditional psychotherapy focuses on helping clients through symptom reduction. This means that when the indicators for therapy fade away, the therapy is considered successful.

But there is a new perspective emerging as to what psychotherapy can offer. Positive psychotherapy (PPT) is a strengths-based approach that is directly aimed at offering a more comprehensive perspective of a client and his or her life circumstances. It is becoming known as an evidence-based standpoint that explores both strengths and weaknesses to achieve greater well-being and functioning.

We are moving from looking at what is wrong to looking at what is strong.

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Sick & Tired? Take this Sleep Quiz

Sleep research has been around for more than 90 years. In the last 15 years, though, researchers have been focusing on partial, or short, sleep rather than total sleep deprivation.

Such research looks at the way sleep affects cardiometobolic disease, the name given to disruption of a variety of physical and cognitive functions. These disruptions can affect basic skills such as appetite regulation and mood. Sleep researchers apparently are issuing the rest of us a wake-up call.

Each of us has an internal clock, a circadian rhythm that regulates our sleep needs. This is synchronized by the amount of sunlight we are exposed to.

But when we are tempted by the demands of our social clock -- such as reading that last email, staying up for late-night TV, or going out and staying out late with our friends -- we fall out of sync and the effects can take their toll. This circadian disruption often is at the core of numerous problems.

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We Underestimate Our Changes: The End of History Illusion

It’s like déjà vu all over again. ~Yogi Berra

Yep. That’s me in my fabulous Nehru tux getting ready for my prom date. I was about as spiffy then as spiffy could be. The tux was rented, but I had my regular Nehrus in the closet. They were next to my bell-bottoms, tie-dyes and 8-tracks.

What happened?

The Nehru went out of style around 11:55 p.m. the night of the prom and I had to hang on to my bell-bottoms and tie-dyes for about 30 years for them to come back around into fashion. The 8-tracks? They gave way to those newfangled cassettes.

How could I have been so wrong about the future of Nehrus and 8-tracks? Actually, when I think about it, I was wrong about a lot of things: The Afro perm I thought would look spectacular on me forever, the Beatles never breaking up, my best friend Kevin and I being pals for life, the Osborn 55-pound “portable” computer, and the 8-track tape player (which cost me a week's salary) I had installed in my car. Naturally I thought my prom date would never change.

But in spite of my convictions at the time I was about as wrong as wrong could be. The good news is I am not alone.

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