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Brain and Behavior

Teens Share Self-injury Videos, Researchers Fear ‘Normalization’

Many newspapers and media outlets are picking up the new Pediatrics study that looked for "self injury" or "self harm" videos on YouTube and were surprised that they actually found them. I'm not sure "study" is the correct word for what the researchers did here, since millions of people each day perform similar "research" (by typing these keywords into YouTube).

From a completely descriptive study -- e.g., research that is simply observing what the researchers find online -- the researchers nonetheless draw the following conclusion: "The nature of nonsuicidal self-injury videos on YouTube may foster normalization of nonsuicidal self-injury and may reinforce the behavior through regular viewing of nonsuicidal self-injury–themed videos." This isn't a conclusion they can draw from their data, of course.

Alternative explanations abound. Could it be that a teen's peer group has already been engaging in such behavior for years? Or that a person is unlikely to try something just because they see it on TV? After all, how many of us have gone out and killed someone after seeing hundreds (if not thousands) of murders regularly depicted on American television? Does this somehow "normalize" murder? Isn't is equally as likely that teenagers are sharing mutual experiences, because for some minority of teens, these kinds of behaviors are completely normal already?

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Best of Our Blogs: February 22, 2011

What did you do yesterday? For a few lucky people, President's day meant a three day weekend for rest and play. For others, it was work/school as usual. As for me, I took some time for both and found it to be exhilarating and exhausting.

Ever try playing as hard as you work? I spent a day biking and hiking to the point past invigorating and felt a major need for recuperating from my day of rest. The funny thing was that no matter how much I tried to run away from my thoughts and problems, they seem to keep following me wherever I went.

While I was hiking, for example, a fellow hiker called out, "Don't hesitate. Just keep going!" as I was fearfully approaching a stream with large wet rocks. Was his statement about my inability to make decisions? Could this be a reminder on how I needed to start taking more risks in my life? His words meant more to me than a mere warning to be careful.

That's all the more reason one of this week's top posts really got to me. It's all about the stuff in our mind that tends to clutter our internal life. The kind of clutter that follows you everywhere you go-even on vacation. It is one of five interesting top posts this week. If you haven't had a chance to take off this holiday, take some time now to read these.

Clearing Internal Clutter: Creating New Peace Within (Part 1)

(The Therapist Within) - Got too much stuff? And when I say stuff, I mean the emotional kind like fears and worries that hang on you and wear you down and out. This post is all about that type of mental clutter that can literally make a mess of your life.

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Children and Teens

Tending the Family Heart: Our New Parenting Book

Tending the Family Heart is a new e-book by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker that seeks to affirm the importance of family and validate the simple things parents can do every day to nurture the “heart part” of their family.

The effects of the current economic recession and a divisive political climate, as well as changes in family structure and the ever-growing use of personal electronic devices are isolating family members from one another. Tending the Family Heart provides practical ways for parents to counteract these affects by building and nurturing warmth and connection within their family.

“The ‘heart part’ of a family is what transforms the very ordinary and repetitious tasks of daily life into expressions of mutual support and care,” says Dr. Hartwell-Walker. “Parents will find that there are lots of ways they already affirm and connect family members with each other. Tending the Family Heart explains how those simple acts and gestures prepare our children to cope with life’s challenges and model the skills they will need to create loving families of their own someday.”

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Tax Prep for People with ADHD: What to Do Now

With the sheer pileup of paperwork alone, taxes are a pain for anybody (except for accountants, maybe, but I’m sure they feel the same way when clients swarm their offices in April).

For people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), preparing taxes can feel like an impossible feat.

Tax prep requires using the very skills that are challenges for people with ADHD — the symptoms of the disorder. Symptoms such as being easily distracted, being disorganized and having difficulty with details become major obstacles.

But while it can seem incredibly overwhelming, tax time isn’t an insurmountable challenge. Below, experts take you through the A to Z of preparing your taxes and cutting out paper clutter.

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Brain and Behavior

Are You Happy? Why It’s Difficult to Tell

Here's a difficult question: are you happy?

It's difficult because it partly depends on who you compare yourself to. Most people compare themselves with those around them. Am I happier than my colleagues, my friends or my family?

We also compare ourselves with real and fictional people we've never met. When we do so, there seems to be a fascination with the sadder aspects of other people's lives. The media continually serve up stories about disasters both global and personal, whether it's celebrities in rehab or people coping with natural disasters.

The desire to see sad events depicted dramatically has a history as long as humanity itself. Shakespeare was a master of tragedy. What could be sadder than the story of Romeo and Juliet? Here was a couple whose love is thwarted by their families, who both eventually die by their own hands, each believing the other already dead.

It's not that we take pleasure in seeing other people's misery, but still we seem drawn to it. This article is about why.

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12 Steps to Break Your Addiction to a Person

In his book, How to Break Your Addiction to a Person, Howard Halpern first explains what an addictive relationship is, then gives guidelines for recognizing if you're involved in one. Then, he offers several techniques on how to end an unhealthy relationship (or an emotional affair).

I've compiled and adapted all of his suggestions into the following dozen techniques, excerpting what I found to be the most important passages for each.

1. Keep a Relationship Log

Keep track of the events and happenings of the relationship, but above all, and in as honest detail as you can, set down your feelings about the contacts with your partner. The reasons this can be extraordinarily helpful are (a) It compels you to notice what is going on and how you feel about it, (b) It can help you to look back through it and see the shape of the relationship, what it has really been like and felt like, what have been its patterns over time, and (c) It can curb your tendencies to distort the relationship by either twisting events, repainting your feeling and forgetting either the unpleasant or the pleasant.

2. Find the Patterns

It can be eye-opening to see if there is a pattern in the people you have tended to get involved with and the types of relationships you have formed, so unless your current partner is the only love relationship you have had, I suggest you do a Relationship Review.

First, list the names of each person with whom you had a romantic attachment, going as far back as you can. Then set down the Physical Attributes of each--his or her height, build, hair color, movement, voice, general attractiveness, etc. Then write down the Personality Characteristics of each person on your list. What do you feel is the most striking feature of his personality? What adjectives best describe him: Introverted or extroverted? Passive or active? Warm or cold? Intimate or distant? Self-confident or self-effacing? Successful or ineffectual? Hearty or frail?
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Think Like a Skeptic

In 2009, I was a presenter at the JP Fitness Summit in Kansas City. The summit featured some of the top names in the fitness industry. Topics included any and everything fitness and nutrition related.

My presentation addressed a topic that was foreign to many in attendance, "Thinking Skeptically: How to apply skepticism to the fitness industry?" Some of the participants seemed to have a hard time with this line of thought. Skepticism is rarely if ever mentioned in the popular fitness literature.

The basic premise is this: learning to question and look for evidence could save fitness enthusiasts a great deal of time, money, and embarrassment.

Key points from the lecture

The fitness skeptic ("skeptic" is derived from the Greek skeptikos, which means "inquiring" or "to look around") applies reason to any and all ideas promoted by the fitness industry or ideas promoted by anyone making fitness claims. A skeptic requires evidence before accepting claims.
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Should You Tell Your Boss About a Mental Illness?

Many people struggle with the question of whether or not to tell their bosses about their mood disorders at work. Washington Post columnist Amy Joyce wrote an excellent article on this a few years ago. I have included the first few paragraphs below, but urge you to read the rest of her article, as it gives no straight answers but explores that terrain with great depth.
If you have depression or some other mental illness, what do you do about work? Hope no one notices? Disclose your illness early on and trust that your boss will understand?

Should You Tell is a complicated question.

There is no right answer, and there are some risks to consider.

I discovered this years ago after watching a movie at home with two friends. One of them looked up, scared. She hesitated. And then she let it out: "Do you hear them? The helicopters. They're coming for me, guys."
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Brain and Behavior

10 Tips to Mend a Broken Heart

Bess Myerson once wrote that "to fall in love is awfully simple, but to fall out of love is simply awful." Especially if you are the one who wanted the relationship to last.

Mending a broken heart is never easy. There is no quick way to stop your heart from hurting so much.

To stop loving isn't an option. Author Henri Nouwen writes, "When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful."

But how do we get beyond the pain? Here are 10 tips I've gathered from experts and from conversations with friends on how they patched up their heart and tried, ever so gradually, to move on.

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Negatively Oriented Therapy vs. Fun Theory

“Misery loves company and our company loves misery.”
–I.M. Kidding, NOT founder

Nothing should ever change.  We have been doing things inefficiently and ineffectively for eons.  Why stop now?  Fun theory is the latest effort of a business endeavoring to make changes in the world that are uniquely fun, proactive, and effective.  Each of their innovations has produced a positive change in the environment, or in people’s behavior for the better.

Their motto?

“Fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.”

Our competing motto is:

“It is easier to do nothing and give up.”

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Best of Our Blogs: February 18, 2011

Can you tell that happiness has been on our mind a lot lately? We've been talking about it on our blogs, on Twitter and Facebook. We even asked a few of our Facebook fans how they defined happiness. Not surprisingly, everyone had their own definitions. Michele McMeekin, for example, said to her happiness is, "The ability to welcome any changes gracefully." And Irine Pilavsky said, "Resonance and harmony between whats within and what is out. Pure and free expression of what you truly deeply are!"

Maybe all this happiness talk is the direct result of our upcoming free webinar on Happiness occurring this Tuesday, February 22nd. You can find out more info about it here.

As for me, I am reminded of something my aunt said once about growing up on a plantation. In particular, she described what life was like during a union strike. She said they were broke, had little and lived a simple life. But at the same time, everyone on the plantation helped each other out with food and support so that no one was left to fend for themselves. She said it was a hard time, but remembers it fondly, as one of the happiest times of her life.

That sense of connection and peace from being in a strong community is one of my definitions of happiness. What's yours?

What is Real Happiness? An Interview with Sharon Salzberg

(Mindfulness & Psychotherapy) - If you want to know what "real happiness" is, one of the best people to ask is leading expert in mindfulness Sharon Salzberg. So that's what we did. Read this interview and you'll also learn how to obtain lasting happiness that is not vulnerable to changing conditions.

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Free Webinar on Happiness, Feb. 22

We're all seeking paths to increase happiness in our lives. Indeed, there are many different ways to improve your chances of happiness, but sometimes we just don't know where to begin.

Have I got the answer for you! The PBS series, This Emotional Life is hosting a free webinar and interactive discussion about happiness with some of the top happiness experts, in cooperation with Psych Central.

Join us on Tuesday, February 22nd at...
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