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6 Ways to Boost Your Willpower

Did you know that willpower is a lot like coal?

We have a limited amount, and it can very well run out before your husband buys your burial lot. I am pretty sure that I used up a fair chunk in my 20s and 30s trying to stay sober, eat right, exercise five times a week, yada yada yada through a bunch of boredom.

I am determined to get some of my willpower back, so here I have assembled the tricks that have worked in the past.

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Lance Armstrong: Cognitive Dissonance as a Hero’s Journey Ends

"I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair."
~Lance Armstrong

The stun of learning that Lance Armstrong will be stripped of his seven titles for doping by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was the first time in more than a decade I can remember crying after hearing a news broadcast.  The last time was on the morning of 9/11.

Without a doubt Lance Armstrong was my hero.  A genuine, certified hero. 

No one in the history of the sport of cycling has won seven titles at the Tour de France, beat cancer, and became a beacon of hope for patients.  His legacy was a source of inspiration for millions. 

But in spite of his fundraising and being a cancer survivor-turned-spokesperson, he is no longer my hero. 

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7 Reasons to Read ‘Happier at Home’

Warning: blatant self-promotion to follow! You’ve been warned!

My new book, Happier at Home, comes out in a few weeks–on my wedding anniversary, which seems auspicious for a book about happiness at home. If you read my contributions to the World of Psychology blog, I hope you’ll consider reading it. “Um, why should I buy your book,” some people have asked nicely, “when I can read the blog for free?”

Other people have asked, “I read The Happiness Project; is this book more of the same?” Here are some reasons to read Happier at Home:

1. One smart friend who has read both said she thought the blog was process, the book was conclusion. The ideas in the book are presented in a more distilled, thoughtful way, and the book framework allows me to tell longer stories and explain more complicated ideas.

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Back to School: 4 Tips for Thinking Like a Student Again

During the summer it's natural to slip out of study mode -- and into fun, sun and relaxation.

So the start of another school year can feel sobering (at best).

But there are ways you can ease into the fall semester, without much stress. Below, Julie Hanks, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist and author of the blog “Private Practice Toolbox” on Psych Central, shared her tips for shifting to student mode.

1. Start reading regularly. “Get back into the habit of reading for longer stretches of time and reflecting on what you've read,” Hanks said. Try to read material that’s somehow related to your studies, such as textbooks or journal articles.

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The Paradox of Goal-Setting

Lately, I've been talking with several of my patients about the types of goals that they've been setting and why things haven't been working out for them. We’ve recognized some consistently counterproductive patterns of belief and behavior.

These individuals were focused solely on avoiding negative outcomes, rather than achieving positive ones.

Paradoxically, not only did they miss out on achieving any positive outcomes -- understandable, under the circumstances -- but they created almost exactly the negative outcomes that they feared.

Recently, an artist named Lulu admitted to me that she's had no success with dating and romance. She's never been married and has, at 42, a history of very unsatisfactory relationships. She shared that her goal has been “to avoid divorce, as opposed to getting married.”

The result is that she's ended up alone.

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Best of Our Blogs: August 24, 2012

The line between happiness and sadness, right and wrong, love and hate is a thin one. You can easily teeter from one to the other at any given moment. A friend could blurt out the "wrong" thing, for example, and a comment said in haste could wreak havoc on your relationship. Or you could wake up refreshed and excited about the prospect of a new day and a second later find yourself in anguish over disappointing news.

It's this type of back and forth, up and down, emotional roller coaster that makes some wary of befriending others or getting too close. It's both the fear of being hurt and hurting others that causes us to fold inward. Better to stay at a distance. It's much easier to be hard than soft. Yet, life will hit us with something big anyway. There's no way of escaping pain, fear or disappointment. The only way is right through it.

If this week's been rough for you, I hope you find comfort in our posts. You'll learn what to say to someone who's grieving (the perfect prescription to give to those who don't know what to say to you too). You'll also feel triumphant in reading Beth's post this week if you're a parent and especially if you're a parent who has a child with autism. There's also a post to help you stay happy and an empowering one that sheds light on rape from the victim's perspective. Finally, learn why "you are what you wear" may be more fitting than "you are what you eat" in this week's Weightless post.

It may not be easy to love the moment you're in or to feel happy when your world is turned upside down. But after reading the posts below, I hope you'll learn that it's not the big, over-the-top occasions that can change your life and make you happy. It's the small ones. Here's wishing you lots of those this weekend!

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Video: 4 Tips For Handling Criticism

Even though negative feedback from others may feel like a personal attack, it can provide helpful clues for self-improvement and healthier relationships.
1. Consider the source
How close are you to the person offering criticism? How much do you respect their opinions? Do they criticize everyone? Weigh the criticism based on how much you value the relationship.

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Children and Teens

Grassroots Teen Peer Support on Twitter

You've seen Charles Schulz's classic Peanuts cartoon featuring Charlie Brown seated in front of Lucy at a makeshift stand with a sign reading "Psychiatric Help: 5 cents." He tells her his problems and she gives bad advice. It's funny, in a comic strip.

But in real life, what are the consequences?

On Twitter, there's a new upsurge in accounts from teens offering counseling to their peers. Peers who are suicidal, who have eating disorders, who self-harm, with depression and anxiety and social issues. Young people who tweet about how much they want to cut after being bullied on Facebook.

These are serious issues warranting professional attention, but for many reasons they aren't getting it. Instead they are offering help to one another.

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Surefire Strategies That Don’t Work for ADHD – And Some That Do

Knowing what works for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is just as important as knowing what doesn’t. In fact, some of the tactics you’re using might even exacerbate your symptoms.

Whether it’s techniques that you’ve tried yourself or others have employed, below are seven surefire ways to unsuccessfully cope with ADHD. Plus, at the bottom you’ll find techniques that actually do work.

1. Unsuccessful strategy: Criticizing. Individuals with ADHD usually already have a sinking self-esteem and hold negative beliefs about themselves. So when loved ones or others criticize them, it chips away at their self-worth even more.

“Remember, it's not that the person with ADHD doesn't want to do something – they just can't,” said Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D, a psychotherapist and author of several books on ADHD, including 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD.

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The Bipolar Puzzle: Kids and Bipolar Disorder

I've been part of too many heated discussions lately on bipolar disorder among kids. Because I know of several cases where it's been sheer heartache for the parents, it's difficult for me not to respond defensively at folks who dismiss all child mood disorders as proof of an over-medicated nation.

So I thought I'd republish excerpts from Jennifer Egan's excellent, comprehensive article that ran awhile back in the New York Times Magazine. She profiles several different families as well talks to experts in the field, asking doctors how they go about diagnosing a child with bipolar disorder and why the percentage increase among kids.

I have excerpted more of the medical paragraphs. But the descriptions of the kids' symptoms is worth reading.

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Find It Hard To Wake Up in the Morning? Try This One Thing

Every morning, first thing, to help myself wake up (it is 6:00 a.m., after all), I spend a minute or so stretching.

This isn’t a rigorous or carefully designed set of stretches — more the kind of desultory stretches that we did in my seventh-grade P.E. class before running laps around the gym.

I touch my toes, I do some straddle stretches, I twist left and right, etc.

I do this not for any scientifically based reason (in fact, from what I read, it seems that this kind of stretching may not always be a good idea), but because it helps me feel awake and energetic.

This easy, simple habit makes me feel much more alert and comfortable in my body.

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5 Small Ways to Create Your Own Happiness

The small stuff counts when it comes to happiness. It’s the seemingly mini decisions we make day-to-day that can actually make a big difference.

In his book Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create Your Own Road to Happiness, professor Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D, writes, “Every moment of our waking life we face choices whose cumulative effect on us is just as great, if not greater, than the effect of the big decisions.”

He gives several examples, such as saying something nice to his spouse or giving “her a sour look”; appreciating his health, friends and food or taking them for granted; sitting up straight or slouching.

It’s empowering to realize that, regardless of our circumstances, we do have a say in our satisfaction.

Here are five ways we can choose happiness every day from Ben-Shahar’s book.

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