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Feeling Scattered

When I sat down to write this article, I was completely focused on what I wanted to accomplish. Now, here it is, just 20 minutes later, and I’m feeling scattered and unfocused.

What happened?

An “urgent” text pinged, saddling me with another task I must accomplish by the end of the day.
My cleaning crew arrived, late again, and the noise from the vacuum cleaner is making it impossible for me to concentrate.
Then, my next client called. She was close by; could we possibly start the session earlier?

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Children and Teens

Want Happy and Healthy Kids? Just Say “NO!”

When asked what they want for their kids, many parents respond, “I just want them to be happy and healthy.” Such a simple, harmless, laudable goal!

And yet, such an orientation frequently results in parents giving their kids too much stuff, too many experiences, at too early an age. The upshot: These kids become more harpy than happy. Rather than feeling grateful for what they’ve been given, they feel resentful that their every whim is not being satisfied.
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Psychology Around the Net: August 12, 2017

Happy Saturday, sweet readers!

I have a busy, busy day today. First, I'm having a meeting with family members to make some important (but fun!) plans, and then after a couple of hours of downtime (I hope), I'll be out celebrating one of my city's annual events.

You, too, might have a busy Saturday planned. However, that's no reason to skip out on this week's Psychology Around the Net! Bookmark it if you have to, because this week we have information about why people in supportive relationships are more likely to accept challenges and experience personal growth, why some of us are so dissatisfied (apparently it boils down to biology?!), how a board-certified psychiatrist is part of the world of exorcisms, and more.

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TAO Connect: What if a Computer Could Help You with Psychotherapy, Alter Your Habits?

Computer-mediated training and psychotherapy -- that is, a computer program (whether an app, a website, or a piece of software) helping you learn something new, especially with regards to your thoughts, behaviors, and habits -- has been with us a long time. One of the pioneers in this space has been Australia's MoodGYM, first launched in 2001. It now has over 1 million users around the world and has been the subject of more than two dozen randomized clinical research trials showing that this inexpensive (or free!) intervention can work wonders on depression, for those who can stick with it. And online therapy has been available since 1996.

I like technology backed by science, because scientific data should drive developing new tools to help us change our thoughts, behaviors, and habits. It shouldn't just come from some random developer's pop psychology understanding of human behavior. Research data demonstrating a new intervention's efficacy is the best answer to countering the placebo effect, which we know is very strong for novel techniques and treatments.

That's why I also like what TAO Connect is doing, because it's based upon research and work pioneered at the University of Florida.

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Brain and Behavior

Your Brain is Not a Computer

It may seem redundant to say this, but your brain is not a computer. It never has been and it never will be. Your consciousness won't be downloaded into a computer in your or my lifetime.

Computers are technology-based tools that only do what they are told (programmed) to do. Your brain, on the other hand, began life with a set of reflexes it was never taught. Your brain re-experiences things in order to for you to remember, but it doesn't store those memories in anything that looks or acts like a computer's storage device.

In short, your brain is not a computer. It's time to put this misconception to bed.

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Using Technology to Help Us Practice Mindfulness

Often we think that technology and mindfulness are opposites. We think they're at odds. When we think about practicing mindfulness or meditation, we think about putting away our phones. We think about turning off the TV. We think about shutting down all our devices. We think about digital detoxes.

But technology and mindfulness actually aren’t so incompatible. Even more, we can use technology to help us practice mindfulness.
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Anxiety and Panic

How Twitter Tamed My Anxiety

I’m sure a lot of you reading this are having a difficult time believing that Twitter could help decrease anxiety. I wouldn’t have believed it before I tweeted myself. In fact, the only reason I ventured into Twitter territory was because a social media expert at a writer’s conference highly recommended it, saying it was “a virtual cocktail party for writers.” With shaky hands -- literally -- I created my Twitter account that very day.

Five years have gone by since that first login. During this time, I’ve connected with Twitter folk from all over the world, people who are passionate about many of the same topics I am, including the arts, civil rights, and, of course, mental health issues. When I read about other people’s journeys through anxiety and depression, I became less isolated. And, may I add, less ashamed as well.
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Yeah Right — Getting My Teen to Read Would Be a Miracle

It is not unusual to see a teenager with their phone in their hand and their eyes glued to its screen. You may even harbor some concerns that your teen is internet-addicted with the amount of time they spend on their phone. But at least they’re reading something, right?

Well, the research isn’t so sure about that.

Researchers looking at childhood use of smartphones and other devices have found an alarming
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Why WebMD Should Run Away from Internet Brands/KKR Deal

Practically everybody knows and uses WebMD, and most people generally have respect for this mainstay commercial health website. The kind of health information it publishes is generally good and well-vetted -- people trust it. They've also drawn a clear line between their advertising and editorial departments. I have never once been unclear what is advertising and what is editorial content on a WebMD site.

In short, most people respect WebMD.

The same cannot be said for some of the dubious health properties under the Internet Brands umbrella. Just a cursory review of a few of their health websites demonstrate everything that WebMD is not -- seemingly unethical, ad-cluttered sites that are more about revenue generation than providing high-quality health content.

That's why WebMD should run, not walk, away from the deal to be acquired by Internet Brands.

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When Internet Shopping Is an Impulse Control Disorder

For me, the danger zone is online book sellers. There have been evenings when I’ve gone looking for a particular book. With one click, it’s on its way to me. Fine. But then there are always pictures of book jackets strung across the bottom of the page: “People who bought this book also bought. . .”

“Oh”, think I. “That one looks interesting.” Click. “Oh, that one looks like it would be very helpful.” Click. “Hmm. I wonder how that writer approached the subject.” Click.  “Ah. This one is used but in “like new” condition for half price. That’s a great deal!” Click.
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Can Computer-Based Intervention Benefit Our Stress Levels?

Too much stress is a problem we all face, however stress isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, feeling stressed can lead to more motivation and greater focus. If we overdo it, however, it can have a bad impact on our mental health. This can range from having a short temper, to headaches, to having trouble sleeping, to even becoming unwell.

According to the APA, 75 percent of adults will go through some stress on any given month. In spite of how many people is affected by stress only a few of them will get any help. This may be due to lack of time, worrying about what others may think, thinking we should be able to get over it on our own or simply not being able to afford help. A way to make accessing help more convenient, more private and cheaper is through digital technology, but can web-based treatments really help?
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