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10 Tips for Healthy Living

Health psychologists have a dual mission: to help prevent mental and physical illness and disease and to promote healthy living. From cancer to diabetes, health psychologists deal with a wide variety of issues underlying physical illness and chronic disease. According to Maureen Lyon, Ph.D, clinical health psychologist and associate research professor in pediatrics at George Washington University, health psychologists use their knowledge to “enhance the quality of life of individuals.”

Interestingly, much of what health psychologists teach (deep breathing, mindfulness, stress reduction, etc.) works for everyone. Our fast-paced life and increased dependency on technology often results in disconnection, stress and lack of sleep, which all wreak havoc on our health. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take today to begin living a healthier life.

Here, two health psychologists offer tips for living more happily, peacefully and mindfully.

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Brain and Behavior

Willpower, Self-Control Can Be Learned

I'm a little astounded by how quickly some people are willing to just throw up their hands and, rather than learning how to gain more willpower and self-control in their life, use technology tools as a substitute for learning those skills. Or suggesting how we seem to be at the mercy of social networking sites, which have some sort of undeniable power over us, our choices and our behaviors.

I'm talking about the article in today's Boston Globe from Tracy Jan bemoaning how college students nowadays are "tangled in an endless web of distractions." The article reads like college students are saying, "The Internet and Facebook are just too darned addicting, I can't help myself!"

It's gotten so bad that some college professors -- even at the venerable technology institute MIT -- are outright banning laptops in class. Oh, the tragedy!

Except none of this is new. Or news.

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Brain and Behavior

Analyzing the Thinking Process: Interview with Diane Halpern

Diane Halpern is a professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College; she is the former president of the American Psychological Association and former president of the Western Psychological Association.  Halpern has won many awards for her teaching and research, including the 2002 Outstanding Professor Award from the Western Psychological Association, the 1999 American Psychological Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching, and the Silver Medal Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.  She has also authored a variety of books.

Here are some of Halpern's views on the thinking process.

What is the goal of critical thinking?  Is critical thinking rational thinking?

Critical thinking is good thinking or clear thinking—it involves analyzing the thinking process as well as the outcome. People who think well (use the skills of critical thinking) make better decisions across all areas of their lives. It is reasoned thinking—supporting beliefs and actions with good reasons.

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Anxiety and Panic

Recovery From Addiction and Depression: An Interview with Vivian Eisenecher

Today I have the honor of interviewing Vivian Eisenecher, author of Recovering Me, Discovering Joy, and a sought after speaker, mentor and writer since 1996. Her other published works include articles for Chicken Soup for the Soul and Woman's World.

Her inspirational story has been enthusiastically received by churches, companies and corporations, national organizations and national associations. She is passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse. She loves helping people meet their potential and discover joy in their lives!

Question: I love the definition of authentic success that you give in your book. You spell out PROCESS as an acrostic and go through the seven components of process. Could you abbreviate them here for my readers?

Vivian: Authentic success is not a destination. It is a PROCESS that includes: Perseverance, Resilience, Openness, Compatibility, Enthusiasm, Self-esteem, and finally, Spirituality.

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9 Tips to Quit Nagging

From what I hear from other people, it's clear that I'm not the only person who struggles with nagging. It turns out that being a nag is just as unpleasant as being nagged -- so finding strategies to stop nagging brings a real happiness boost to a relationship.

But even though no one enjoys an atmosphere of nagging, in marriage or any partnership, chores are a huge source of conflict. How do you get your sweetheart to hold up his or her end, without nagging?

One of my best friends from college has a very radical solution: she and her husband don’t assign. That’s right. They never say, “Get me a diaper,” “The trash needs to go out,” etc. This only works because neither one of them is a slacker, but still — what a tactic! And they have three children!

That's something to strive for. But even if we can’t reach that point, most of us could cut back on the nagging. Here are some strategies that have worked for me...

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Best of Our Blogs: April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day! And Happy Early Easter! We've got lots to celebrate as tomorrow is also our new monthly, "Ask the Therapist Live event" on Facebook.

Here are the details:

When? Saturday, April 23 from 2:00 - 4:00 pm ET (11:00 am - 1:00 pm PT).
What? Our Live event is your chance to "Ask the Therapist" your questions on everything from career to relationships.
Who? Our therapists from the Ask the Therapist page, me and you!
Where? Facebook. Read below for more information on how to join our Psych Central Ask the Therapist group to participate in tomorrow's event.
How? Ask your question as a Facebook update and our therapists will respond in the comments.

This time I created an Psych Central Ask the Therapist group, which will help keep things a little more private. But of course anything on the internet is never 100% private. Keep that in mind for tomorrow's event.

To join, click on this link or do a search for Psych Central Ask the Therapist group in your Facebook search box.

I will be closing the group when the event begins to keep the questions and answers private so make sure to join before 11 am PT and 2 pm EST on Saturday.

Also, if you want to avoid getting a continuous stream of updates in your inbox, make sure to edit your notification settings. I explain how to do so on our group page. See you there!

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Brain and Behavior

I Am the Most Important Person You Know

I am not a narcissist, but I am the most important person you know. When I'm talking to you. When you read an essay or article of mine. When you're in a meeting with me. When you're sharing a meal or a drink with me.

In olden days -- like 10 years ago -- we would call this "attention." We would say, "Oh, look, you're paying attention to what I'm writing" or "It's nice of you to pay attention when I'm talking."

And yes, I know how important your social network is to your fragile ego, your delicate self-esteem. That you need to understand and be reassured that nothing more important is going on in your world. That you're not going to dump me in mid-conversation for a potentially better conversation somewhere else.

Yes, I am the most important person you know. And here's why...

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A Snippet of Psychology’s Scientific Roots

Throughout the years, sometimes it seems that the public has been iffy about psychology and psychologists. Part of the problem is a lack of knowledge. Past surveys have shown that many people have no idea what psychologists even do.

More recent research has found that the public largely views psychology in a positive light. But people still have a limited understanding of the discipline and don’t view it as a hard science.

A 1998 survey revealed that both adults and college faculty viewed the physical sciences more favorably. They believed that psychology -- along with sociology -- led to fewer critical contributions to society and had less expertise than the physical sciences.

How did psychology get this bad reputation?

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Digital Detox Week: On (Sort Of) Staying Away From Technology

Happy Digital Detox Week! This week, I'm joining Adbusters in celebrating seven days away from technology -- television, video games, and internet included.


What was that last one? Did I just say "internet"? Yeah, internet. That internet thing...that thing that I'm on right now.

Did I just out myself as a failure at my own little project?

It's only the third day of my week-long experiment and already I'm a hypocrite -- but with good reason. Computers and the internet have invaded my life to such a great extent that I can't completely disconnect. Not even if I wanted to.

Here's why: I work in an office. Every aspect of my day job, unfortunately, is performed in front of the big bright computer screen. Two of them, actually. And walking to the printer is my only true reprieve from staring at my monitor. Surely I'm not the only one, right?
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Brain and Behavior

Stages of Change and Motivation

In my tutoring for SAT preparation, I have come across themes and variations on the essay questions. One of the most common SAT essay questions is the topic of change and motivation.

In one phrasing or another, the SAT asks if we believe that change can come from external sources or if true change comes only from within. Change, motivation, perception of reality -- they are all cousins.

At my husband’s work as a milieu therapist at a psychiatric hospital, he evaluates patients on their “stage of change” in order to gauge their insight into their condition. The vast majority of the people he runs into are in “pre-contemplation;” they don’t know why they’re in the hospital at all.

They create wild confabulations about how the tortured cat deserved it, how they were framed, and how they’re being held against their will.

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Brain and Behavior

Want a Happier Marriage? Unrealistically Idealize Your Partner

If ignorance is bliss, then delusion is even better -- if you're in a new marriage, anyways.

So says new research from investigators at the University at Buffalo, who examined 193 newly-married couples over three years to see what kinds of variables might predict greater marital satisfaction.

How could this be? Weren't we always told the common wisdom -- that we needed to be realistic in our relationships, and not look for that Knight in Shining Armor who comes to our rescue (or a Maiden trapped in a castle tower who needs rescuing)?

Apparently the common wisdom may need to be revisited, because continuing to idealize your partner long after the glow of the wedding fades away seems to help keep you happy.

Read on to learn more...

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Best of Our Blogs: April 19, 2011

Have you ever read A Parable by author Barbara Stanny? It's a story about a farmer who was terribly afraid of an ugly, horrifying monster that lived in the forest near his home so he spent his life building a fence to keep it out. But all that time he devoted to building walls to protect himself prevented him from spending time with his friends and family.

When he was finally fed up with being afraid, a fairy godmother appeared and told him how to make the monster disappear. For that to happen he needed to find the monster and embrace it.

The farmer was frightened and paralyzed with fear and thought the godmother nutty for suggesting it and himself crazy for thinking of doing it. But, "his pain had gotten worse than his fear." And he so he faced it by finding the monster, looking him in the eye and then embraced him. "A smile cracked his face. 'I had this power all along,'" he realized in amazement. 'Imagine what's possible now!'"

I thought this was a great story about the power and possibility that comes with overcoming your fears. It's a great fit to this week's best posts and hopefully it inspires you to face your own ugly monsters. *You can read the rest of the story here.

Is it Infidelity or Cultural Values That Normalize Addictive Patterns of (Sexual) Relating?

(Neuroscience & Relationships) - Why do we have such a hard time believing that love and sex addiction really exists? And why do sex addicts react so negatively to the label? This top post attempts to debunk old myths and misunderstandings and explains the cultural beliefs and values that caused them.

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