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How I Create: Q&A With Author Marney Makridakis

I discovered Marney K. Makridakis’s work when I came across her newest book Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life. (I loved the book and wrote about it here.) After reading such a unique and creativity-filled book, I just knew that I had to learn more about her process and inspiration.

Thankfully, she was happy to participate in our monthly series -- and the result is a whole lot of inspiration below. Makridakis reveals the importance of ideas, her creativity saboteurs and solutions, the power of the rough draft and much more.

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How to Say ‘No’ and Make it Stick

"'No' may be the most powerful word in the language, but it's also potentially the most destructive, which is why it’s hard to say," says William Ury, director of the Global Negotiations Project at Harvard University, and author of"The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes.

Ury believes that saying no is so difficult because it surfaces the "tension between exercising your power and tending to your relationship."

In other words, you want to put your foot down and be true to your convictions. But you also don't want to estrange yourself from friends and family members. You want everyone to like you.

My neighbor often asks me to go on errands with her. I don't want to hurt her feelings, so I often say "Yes," when what I really want to do is to say, "No."

That's why many people choose avoidance (like pulling down the blinds and telling the kids not to answer the door when the neighbor comes calling). Unfortunately, this gets you neither respect of your opinions or warm fuzzies from friends.

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How to Get Over a Breakup

Relationship breakups are tough. They are emotionally exhausting, and can be incapacitating at times. For some who begin to dwell in regret and sadness, breakups can even spiral into depression. Even the breakups that make the most logical sense are still emotionally painful. And in fact, it is the emotional -- not logical -- part of ourselves that causes us to dwell in these relationships that we may logically know are not healthy for us.

While a grieving period is expected after a breakup, as breakups are a form of loss, it can be easy to get caught in an emotionally harmful pattern if we don't actively push ourselves forward in our lives.

So how do we emotionally get through a breakup and also move forward in an emotionally healthy manner?

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What the Affordable Care Act Means to Mental Health

With the Supreme Court ruling that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- enacted by Congress in 2010 -- can stand, it paves the way for full implementation of the law in the years to come.

There are many benefits to the law. For instance, eventually an insurer won't be able to turn you down for a pre-existing psychiatric or health condition (kids are already covered by this provision; adults soon will be). Low-income people will also have greater access to an expanded version of Medicaid, the federal/state program for the poor and disabled.

Opponents of the law suggest it will drive up health-care costs -- something the law wasn't intended to fully address. Health care costs are already rising much faster than inflation, so this is an ongoing problem that most economists, politicians and physicians can find little agreement on how to solve. The Affordable Care Act is meant as a first step in controlling costs, however, by emphasizing preventative care and cooperative, integrated physician/hospital practices.

What does the Supreme Court ruling mean for access to mental health treatment and care in the years to come?

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Best of Our Blogs: June 29, 2012

Have you ever dreamed about how great it would be if life was easy? Easy as in you'd never have to work for happiness or success or could be "normal," you didn't have to deal with illness, addiction, change, face your fears or grapple with discrimination. Wouldn't that be amazing? Maybe.

I often wondered what the consequences of a problem-free life would be. It's what made a childhood classmate stare at me with disgust when I told him "heaven may be boring," because there were no more battles to be fought. That doesn't mean there aren't things in life that should be easy. Like health insurance and our rights to mental health treatment or being able to be who we are without be discriminated against. But the act of fighting for what we believe in, learning the tools to face our fears and overcome inconceivable challenges are the thorns that ultimately lend us to beautifully bloomed flowers.

Put simply, you can choose to live in denial about your illness, addiction, or your unhealthy relationship, or you can stop sweeping the dust under the rug and face it. The former may appear to be the easier life, but it's not. It's self-confidence and courage that gets strengthened every time you tackle what feels hard, that makes life not only worth living, but helps you move effortlessly toward self-growth, healing and happiness.

The posts this week are all about helping you to overcome what feels difficult. Read them not as a way to make you feel guilty or bad about the life that you are currently living, but to give you the tools, support and hope you need to get through the inevitable hard parts in life. 
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Brain and Behavior

How to Nurture Your Child’s Brain

Many factors shape early brain development. Food and nutrition, genetics, daily experiences, parenting, physical activity and love all are important components.

Studies show that test scores increase 20 percent when your child's brain is nurtured. It is a growing organ that changes every minute. A brain is capable of remarkable changes up to the age of 25, when it is said that a person is capable of making concrete decisions.

By maximizing the brain’s functioning, intelligence is highly predisposed in everyday activities.

So how do you help this along?

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Top 10 Hottest Psychology Articles, Jan-Mar 2012

ScienceDirect is a service that allows people to search for and read full journal articles for many medical and social sciences journals online (which sure beats having to go to the local university library to make copies of them!). Combined with the use of other database services, it allows health journalists like us to read the scientific literature directly -- and also put it into some useful context.

Every quarter, SciVerse ScienceDirect's releases their Top 25 Hottest Articles list for a variety of scientific topics. These are the most read articles, as counted by article downloads on SciVerse ScienceDirect. In other words, these are the most popular articles read through the service.

We've excerpted the top 10 from the list, along with our brief comments about the list.

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Rethinking & Recreating Your Mornings So You’re More Fulfilled

I was a big fan of Laura Vanderkam’s 2010 book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. (Here are her tips and my review of the book.)

Recently, she’s written a short and valuable e-book entitled What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings -- and Life. In it, Vanderkam explains what's so special about mornings and lays out five steps to help you reorganize your mornings so you can create rituals that make you happier and more fulfilled.

Vanderkam gleaned these tips from studying how super-successful -- and super-busy -- people spend their early hours. She also shares examples of these individuals’ morning routines, which include everything from working on their books to exercising to praying to spending time with their kids.

When figuring out the best activities for your a.m., Vanderkam suggests picking meaningful activities -- the ones that are important but not urgent (which explains why they get tossed aside). These are the activities that nurture your career, your relationships and yourself.

Here’s a peek at Vanderkam’s clear-cut and totally feasible five steps for making over your mornings.

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Are You In a Healthy Relationship?

This guest article from YourTango was written by Susan J. Elliott.

In the years I've been counseling and coaching, many people say, "I know I've been in sick relationships, but I don't know what a healthy relationship looks like."

There are many long and complicated answers to this, but there is also a simple one: healthy relationships make your life larger and happier; unhealthy relationships narrow your life and make you crazy.

Healthy relationships do not include mind games, mixed messages, or control.  There is not a back and forth or continual makeup and breakup, or "I'm sorry, please forgive me" every week or so.

More from YourTango: 10 Signs You're In An Abusive Relationship

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Brain and Behavior

5 Strategies for Self-Compassion

Many of us are all too used to bashing ourselves. And it’s not surprising. In our society, we’re taught that being hard on ourselves and ashamed of everything from our actions to our looks gets results.

Self-criticism is the preferred path to success. We rarely think about showing ourselves kindness. Or even if we do, we worry that doing so is selfish, complacent or arrogant.

But research has found that self-criticism only sabotages us and produces a variety of negative consequences. For instance, according to Kristin Neff, Ph.D., associate professor in human development at the University of Texas at Austin, studies have shown that self-criticism can lead to lowered self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

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An Early Start for Kids with Autism: 5 Tips for Parents

Children with autism are often remarkably unaware of the meaning of other people's nonverbal communications.

It is not uncommon to see a young child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) who does not understand the "give me" gesture of an open hand or the meaning of a point. Your child may not understand the significance of an angry or sad face on another person.

Sometimes people interpret the child's lack of interest or response to others' expressions as a lack of cooperation, but children with ASD just don't understand. How can you teach your child to pay attention to people and recognize what their body language means?

Here are three easy steps:

Step 1: Exaggerate your gestures.
Step 2: Add predictable steps.
Step 3: Provide needed help.

And here are five simple exercises you and your young child can do today to help with paying attention to people and better understanding body language.

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Introducing Life Happens

Life is complicated. Just when we think everything is going smoothly, it throws us a curve ball. Whether it’s at school, work, with a friend or family member, or in a romantic relationship, something always seems to come up that can send us into turmoil.

Unfortunately, we don’t get a “coping with life” class in high school. We’re expected to just pick up the skills and techniques for best coping with life on our own, through “life experience” itself.

Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t (as in the case of alcoholism, emotional eating, etc.).

So it’s my pleasure to introduce Life Happens — a blog about dealing with life on life’s terms. It’s about finding a way to make lemonade out of lemons, even when you feel you’re all out of sugar.

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