World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999. 2018-01-19T16:45:09Z John Amodeo, PhD <![CDATA[What It Means to Not Take Things Personally]]> 2018-01-19T16:41:33Z 2018-01-19T16:45:09Z We often hear that we shouldn’t take things so personally. But what does this actually mean?

If someone we’ve allowed into our heart says something shaming or hurtful, such as “You only think about yourself” or “How can you be so stupid?” we’re likely to feel the pain of being judged and criticized. It hurts to be viewed as an object with horrible traits rather than be seen in our wholeness.

It’s not realistic to think we should not be personally affected when someone close to us sears us with a critical or dismissive comment. As human beings, we affect each other. It would be more helpful if your partner or friend revealed how they’re affected by your behavior, which is the intention behind communication skills training, such as the non-violent communication (NVC) approach of Marshall Rosenberg.

We have little control over how others view us and relate to us. We have more control over how we view ourselves and the situation, and how we respond to it. If we take time to look clearly at things, we can gain some distance from the situation rather than be so personally merged with it that we react quickly and mindlessly.

If a loved one is angry or critical toward us, we’re likely to have an immediate fight, flight, freeze response. But instead of attacking back or getting defensive, which adds fuel to the fire, we can gain some perspective if we pause rather than react. We can take a breath and stay connected to our body — and consider the following:

My partner just got triggered. I want to be sensitive to their feelings, whether or not I did or said something hurtful. If I did, I’ll take responsibility for that and explore and share what was happening inside me that led me to being hurtful. This can take some time, but it might lead to an apology: “I’m sorry I was critical of you, but deep down I was feeling hurt and it came out as anger. I didn’t want to feel vulnerable, so I got defensive.”

Perhaps my partner was getting triggered by something I said that has little or nothing to do with me. Maybe old hurts were getting activated from a prior relationship or from childhood traumas.

Not being so quick to accept blame gives us some space from a situation. We remain engaged with our partner, listening openly, but not taking it so personally. We maintain our personal boundaries rather than immediately sink into a shame pit and get frozen or defensive. We hold the situation, our own feelings, and the other’s feelings with more spaciousness. We can explore together what just happened without instinctually denying or accepting responsibility.

Seeing Things in Perspective

Oftentimes we take things personally in the sense of feeling responsible for everything that goes awry. We immediately think we did something wrong. We lose our sense of self.

It’s a bit easier to not take things personally with people we don’t know well — or at all. Perhaps we’re temporarily distracted and tailgating the car ahead of us. Upon passing them, they flip us the finger and shout an obscenity.

Rather than take their road rage personally — reacting with rage or defensiveness — we can consider the following:

  • They may be having a hard day.
  • They may be having a hard life.
  • They may have been traumatized by a past traffic accident.
  • We may have triggered their survival fear, which led to their fight/flight response.

These considerations can give us pause and perspective. We’re not bad; they’re not bad. We had no ill-intentions, yet nevertheless were a bit careless in our driving. We don’t need to be paralyzed by toxic shame, yet a touch of healthy shame can remind us to be more mindful when driving.

Whether we are triggered by a loved one or by people we don’t know, we’re inclined to respond personally because we’re a person — a vulnerable human being who thrives on kindness and recoils when someone pokes our sensitive spots.

The good news is that we can regain our footing by pausing before reacting. We can bring gentleness to our sensitive spots and a spacious awareness to the situation so that we see it in perspective.

Not taking things personally may sometimes be an overly ambitious goal. But as we work toward seeing things with greater clarity, we’re more able to respond rather than react. We have greater inner resources to bring to situations. We realize that not everything is about us, but when it is, we can own up to it and repair broken trust and be more mindful. Gradually, we can live with more compassion for ourselves and others.

If you like my article, please consider viewing my Facebook page and books below.

Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: January 19, 2018]]> 2018-01-19T00:15:25Z 2018-01-19T11:30:03Z Many of us are deemed different because of our illnesses. We grow up feeling misunderstood. We’re the black sheep, rebel, and weird one in our families. Our disease makes others ill at ease. It’s not that we don’t want to appear normal. In fact, for many of us it’s a lifelong dream.

It wasn’t until I read The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino that I understood what it’s like to be on the other side. I never realized it was hard for healthy people to understand what it’s like to have an illness. It gave me compassion. It reminded me that sometimes miscommunication or a lack of knowledge is what causes others to be critical, closed minded and judgmental.

Before you react to the next insensitive remark, use our posts on finding calm, deepening your relationships and understanding other people’s point of view. It might give you the ability to practice the kind of compassion you wish others would give to you.

7 Quotes That Bring Instant Calm
(Unshakeable Calm) – It takes, but the following words to go from upset to calm.

The Turpin Children: Fighting the Misconceptions About Them, Homeschooling and their Future
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – Yes there’s hope for the Turpin children and for all of us.

28 Questions To Ask To Deepen Your Relationships
(Cultivating Contentment & Happiness) – Want to balance your relationship, strengthen your connections, and show them that you care? Start with this.

Study: Men Aren’t the Only Oglers
(Psychoanalysis Now) – Here’s how your inability to look away from attractive people says something about you and your relationship.

Creative Ways to Get Organized
(Make a Mess: Everyday Creativity) – Want to finally get organized in 2018? Check out these ways to creatively clean up your space.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Depression, Loneliness, and the Road to Unhealthy Eating]]> 2018-01-15T15:21:09Z 2018-01-18T21:30:25Z 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Binge Eating

How to manage unhealthy eating habits when loneliness strikes.

When you’re feeling depressed, it really can feel so much worse when you’re sitting there all alone, without anyone else to talk to, and especially at night. (Have you ever noticed that your depression feels worse after the sun goes down?)

How do I know this? I’ve been there before! I’ve also had the personal experience of how the feel-bad state of depression easily leads to emotional eating, food addiction, and binge eating.

Signs Your Depression Is Getting More Serious (and It’s Time to Reach Out)

Why does depression and unhealthy eating flow together so seamlessly? Because the out-of-control eating is an attempt to feel better emotionally.

The problem with this line of action is the emotional relief from eating only lasts for a few minutes, while the hopelessness of the depression lasts long term unless consistent action steps are implemented to transform the emotional state, which can be done. My weight loss coaching clients have done it and so have I.

What’s interesting about the flow of depression, being alone, and overeating is that most think they are depressed because they are overweight and alone.

I believe “overweight and alone” is the result of the depression. The feel-bad emotional state of depression comes first, which fuels the behaviors, which creates the results of isolation, overweight, and being alone, which bring us back to the question… why does depression feel so much worse when you’re alone?

Why depression feels so much worse when you’re alone.

It’s very simple: when you’re hanging out with friends, on a date, or in a relationship, it’s easier to get distracted from your depressive thoughts. That’s it!

Check this out, it’s very important: when you break out of your isolation, even if it’s just going for a walk around the block, it’s easy to get distracted momentarily from your depressive patterns of thought.

The big secret I’m sharing with you here is that the depressing feelings all begin with a thought. It’s your habits of thinking that must change in order to find relief from the depression.

This is what the majority of folks who are taking antidepressants are missing: unless you have a daily practice to transform your feel-bad patterns of thinking, then taking antidepressants rarely does anything to transform the state of depression (unless one has a serious chemical imbalance, which only a doctor can verify).

What my coaching clients have taught me.

Based on my experience, here’s what I’ve learned: I’ve had way too many permanent weight loss coaching clients who were on antidepressants before working with me.

Not only were they taking anti-depressants, but they were also out-of-control with binge eating, emotional eating, food addiction, and negative self-talk while living in a consistent state of self-doubt, hopelessness, fear, and depression.

While working with me, these same clients ended up getting off of their anti-depressants (with their doctor’s approval) because they did the steps to heal the real problem, steps which start with transforming your patterns of thought.

Prior to working with me, nothing was changing in their emotional state (or their overweight) by taking anti-depressants because it’s the mindset, the thoughts, the beliefs, and the habits of thought that must transform in order to fully break free of the depression, and the overweight.

These things do not transform with a pill, unfortunately. Habits of thought can only be transformed by you taking consistent action to change them.

Is this making sense? What I’m saying is that the solution to your depressing feelings is not to find a guy to get into a relationship with so that you’re not alone and can be distracted from your depressive thoughts. That would only serve as a short-term fix.

The real solution, the solution that works long term is to take daily action to change your habit of thinking, release your limiting beliefs, and get a new mindset. That is the solution to end depression (again, unless one has a serious chemical imbalance, as noted above).

A great place to start:

A great place to start is by becoming aware of exactly what you are thinking that has you feeling so bad.

Here’s a super clear example: For many of my coaching clients, prior to working with me they had a habit of thinking a stream of thoughts like, “I’m a failure, I’ll never lose weight, I can’t stop eating, I can’t stop binge eating, no one wants me, I’m a mess and I don’t belong”.

Shit man! This habit of thought would make anyone feel depressed!! But can you see that this is what creates the depression?

What’s worse is that these streams of habitual thinking run on autopilot for the majority of folks because they are not consciously aware of what they are thinking. They’ve been doing it so long that it’s simply easier to take the route of the “stinkin’ thinkin'”. In fact, the brain makes it easy for you to keep taking that route!


Just because you’ve done it so long it’s the easiest road for your brain to take. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, not at all.

It just means that you’re stuck in a rut of habitual thinking… which leads to a habitual state of emotion… which leads to a habitual state of behaviors… which creates the body and the life you are living and will continue to live unless you take action to shake it up and do things very differently.

Raise your awareness.

With that being said, let’s get back to the exercise in awareness to start with now: decide to start now, to raise your awareness consistently in your day-to-day life of the specific thoughts you are thinking that are making you feel so bad.

Use pen and paper to write them down.

The simple act of discovering your feel-bad thoughts and then writing them down pen on paper will result in bring your depressing thinking out of the swirling mist of your mind and help you see it more clearly when it’s written on paper.

You cannot change what you are not aware of.

Become a detective of your own mind.

Choose to become a detective of your own mind and I bet you’ll discover that if you’re feeling hopeless and depressed, then you’re thinking hopeless and depressing thoughts. Any thought can be changed but first, you must become aware of what you are thinking.

Beyond this starter step, the quickest and easiest way to feel better long term, release your habits of negative thoughts, stop overeating, and get fit forever is to work with a high-level coach who already has the proven step-by-step system in place that heals the root of the problem and sets you free.

7 Ways Depressed People Love Differently

Just imagine how you would feel a year from now if you were really feeling good about yourself the majority of the time.

And while it’s unrealistic to expect to get to a place where you always feel great, what if a year from now you were able to feel negative emotion without using food to feel better? What if you could feel negative emotions without staying there long term? How cool would that be!

To Sum Up

Remember that depression is driven by a thought. Once you have a series of negative thoughts formed into a habit of negative thought and that habit of thought is running on autopilot, it’s extremely easy to stay depressed and yes, it does feel worse when you’re alone.

But even if you were to get into a relationship so that you’d be distracted from your negative habits of thought, that relationship wouldn’t fix your depression.

The “fix” to your depression will be found within you and it starts with your thoughts. The mind leads the body; if the mind is running a depressing line of thinking in the background of your day-to-day life then it’s easy to stay depressed.

Change your thinking to change your emotional state to change your behaviors, transform your life, your relationships, and your body. This can be done. I’ve done it myself and so have my coaching clients.

But start now — this is your life and there’s no time to waste. Don’t you agree?

This guest article originally appeared on Why Feeling Depressed And Alone Leads Us To Emotional Eating.

Christiana Star <![CDATA[Invest in Yourself: 5 Self-Care Tips for Bringing Out Your Best Self]]> 2018-01-17T22:18:26Z 2018-01-18T16:45:54Z In a busy life, self-care is often pushed aside or given low priority. Perhaps a weekly yoga class or run around the block on weekends are all you can fit in. But for optimal functioning you need to invest in your mind and emotions as well as your physical health.

The basis of looking after yourself is self-love. Not the narcissistic kind with false self-admiration but the love you have for yourself as a precious human being who deserves to be treated with respect and care and who has the right to be who they really are. With such spiritually-based kind and generous attitude towards yourself you know that looking after yourself on every level of your being is essential for living the best life you can.

Take responsibility for your physical wellbeing.

As the most obvious area to address it includes not only healthy food choices and exercising but also being perceptive to your own symptoms of stress, fatigue or unusual symptoms and taking action to address them.

Attend to your mental health.

Usually this is overlooked until problems arise. But many issues can be averted by checking in with how you think and what thoughts get your attention often even ruling your life.

Pay particular attention to your negative automatic thoughts. Believing them unchecked is very tempting as they seem so true, valid and compelling. Don’t let that fool you – such thinking is toxic, drains your energy, darkens your mood and draws further negativity into your world.

Question and challenge your negative thinking to find out if it is true and realistic. If you discover that it is extreme and exaggerating the situation, create alternative statements that are more realistic and helpful when dealing with difficulties.

In some instances you might choose not to engage but withdraw your energy. When you notice and recognise a particular thought or train of automatic thinking, name them (fearful, pessimistic, dejected …) but with the attitude of a witness rather than being drawn into them. Then move your attention elsewhere and leave the automatic brain to run its course. This is a subtle inner action you can do anywhere and anytime and which will become easier and quicker as you get to know your own special repertoire of thoughts that trip you up.

Manage your emotional wellbeing.

Positive emotions support wellbeing and effectiveness, negativity upsets your energies and impairs your functioning. Even if faced with demands and challenges you have a choice about how you respond: with drama or calmness, letting feelings overcome you or keep your cool with inner detachment?

Emotions cannot be changed directly. You can reduce some of their charge with conscious breathing and self-soothing techniques that will calm your nervous system and indirectly settle emotional upheaval. Being mindful of how your thoughts contribute to your emotions is also important: do they increase your emotional overwhelm or are they solution-focused or at least neutral?

You can ride out emotional storms as if you were steering a little boat through a storm: you notice and assess your emotions as if they were the wind and waves, let them be and calmly persist as you move through them.

Practice spiritual self-care.

You do not have to follow a religion and regularly attend church or spiritual gatherings. Rather it may involve practices such as meditation or contemplation, applying serenity and cultivating inner peace, and listening to your intuition and inner whispers. Creating conditions where you can express who you truly are will nourish your soul and spirit.  Knowing how you tick, your values, needs and interests allow you to live with intention, meaning and purpose. That in itself opens doors and invites opportunities.

Take care of yourself in relationships.

Do you tolerate toxic people because they are ‘not like this all the time’? Are you listening to others who criticize and demean you? How are you in your social life — compliant and submissive or standing up for yourself? Do you act from a position of authenticity with a strong sense of self or from a need of approval or validation?

Set priorities about who you let into your circle and how and with whom you spend time. Of course, in many situations you have no choice who is in your sphere but you are free to choose the place you give them in your emotional life. If you do not like someone but have to work or socialize with them, remember to practice detachment and acceptance rather than getting stuck in dislike or hate.

While self-care does involve taking action within or in society, it is also an essential attitude for success. When all of you is working well — physical energy, realistic thinking, emotional balance, spiritual wellbeing and peaceful relationships — many problems can be avoided or much better managed. Choose one of the above tips and work on it for a while until you develop the habit of consciously taking care of your own state of being. It may take a bit of time initially but after a while it becomes a way of life that easily fits into a busy life and gives you the priority you deserve.

What kind of self-care do you practice? What needs more of your attention? How can you boost your wellbeing?

Gabe Howard <![CDATA[Podcast: How Can Romantic Relationships Work With a Mentally Ill Person?]]> 2018-01-16T17:22:12Z 2018-01-18T11:30:19Z

In this episode of the Psych Central Show, hosts Gabe Howard and Vincent M. Wales discuss the potentially disastrous effects of mental illness on romantic relationships, especially those in which one individual has a mental illness and the other does not. Drawing from their own failed marriages (two each), Gabe and Vincent talk about the role mental illness played in the ending of the relationships, including when they were undiagnosed or diagnosed but with little or no treatment. Gabe also shares advice for those in such relationships on how to minimize the impact of mental illness on the relationships themselves, based on his successful third marriage.


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“If I give [my wife] credit for anything, it’s that she’s been willing to make mistakes – because it’s in those mistakes that we’ve learned together.” ~ Gabe Howard

[1:40]   What are the difficulties in having a relationship with a mentally ill person?

[2:51]   Examining the role of mental illness in Gabe’s marriages.

[9:00] Examining the role of mental illness in Vincent’s marriages.

[10:41] Honesty and education about mental illness are vital for relationships.

[13:43] Making mistakes in the relationships.

[14:16] What a potential romantic partner needs to know before becoming involved.


About The Psych Central Show Podcast Hosts

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. In addition to hosting The Psych Central Show, Gabe is an associate editor for He also runs an online Facebook community, The Positive Depression/Bipolar Happy Place, and invites you to join.  To work with Gabe, please visit his website,




Vincent M. Wales is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. In addition to co-hosting The Psych Central Show, Vincent is the author of several award-winning novels and the creator of costumed hero Dynamistress. Visit his websites at and




Janet Singer <![CDATA[Can Simulating Hallucinations Help Us Learn about Psychosis?]]> 2018-01-17T22:16:30Z 2018-01-17T23:30:09Z Psychosis, when people lose touch with reality, is not a rare occurrence — as many as three in 100 people will experience it at some point during their lives. Psychosis typically includes hallucinations, which consist of seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not actually there. A common example is hearing voices. It can also include delusions, which are beliefs that are not likely to be true and that seem irrational or nonsensical to other people. A typical example involves believing that outside forces are controlling your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

An interesting study from England published in the December 2017 issue of The Lancet Psychiatry delves into the issue of how psychotic experiences are perceived by different groups of people. What is so interesting about this study is how varied people’s reactions to psychotic experiences can be. For example, some people hallucinate and have delusions but are not seemingly bothered by them. They just go on living their lives. Other people who have similar experiences are so debilitated that they need support, medical and/or otherwise, just to get through the day.

For purposes of the study, the researchers separated the participants into three groups:

  • Those who were clinical psychosis patients (under a doctor’s care). This was the clinical group.
  • Those who had symptoms of psychosis similar to the first group, but were able to function well without medical care. They were known as the nonclinical group.
  • Those who showed no evidence of, or history of, psychosis. This was the control group.

If you’re wondering, as I did, how the researchers found the participants in the second group, they reported finding them via “specialist sources, such as online forums for psychic and spiritualist activities, mediums, and other special interests.”

In the study, the researchers performed a series of “magic tricks to see how each participant reacted to so-called psychotic symptoms. While this series of games held the potential for anyone to lose their connection to reality, the researchers designed it to not be too distressing for the participants.

Following the “testing” each participant was questioned in a long interview to record how he or she interpreted the recent events. The nonclinical group tended to view their experiences as more benign and nonthreatening than the clinical group did. They made comments such as, “It is because of the way the human mind works, just part of normal human experience,” to explain what they had just gone through. Participants in the clinical group were more likely to see something more sinister behind their experience, compared with the nonclinical and control groups. Some of their comments included, “Someone is speaking to me,” orIt was done on purpose to trick me or make me look stupid.”

The study is long and detailed and can be read here. In a nutshell, the researchers suggest that the results might indicate that the most severe effects of psychosis don’t come from having the strongest delusions, but from being more likely to interpret them in disturbing and dangerous ways.

These results bring to my mind what those with obsessive-compulsive disorder are often told:

It’s not your actual thoughts that are the problem, but how much weight you give them and how you react to them.

In fact, a major part of therapy for OCD is learning how to respond, or not respond, to whatever thoughts you might be experiencing.

I find the above study interesting, and think this topic deserves more attention. While I believe there is typically more to debilitating psychosis than just having the wrong attitude toward what is happening, perhaps cognitive behavioral therapy similar to what is used in treating OCD could still be helpful.

John DiPrete <![CDATA[Girl Cliques: 8 Labels Teens Should Avoid]]> 2018-01-17T17:20:42Z 2018-01-17T18:55:19Z In social groups of status and hierarchy, relational aggression (“a type of aggression in which harm is caused by damaging someone’s relationships or social status,” according to Wikipedia) often swells underground. In the pressurized atmosphere of a teenage girl clique, the ground can erupt when fears and insecurities (compounded by hormones) frequently predominate.

Ashley Lauren Samsa, a high school teacher in the south suburbs of Chicago, has written an article on which examines the dynamics of peer groups from an educational perspective. She links to a quiz on the subject which explores the character traits of girls in cliques, and suggests ways to address certain problems — like bullying and abuse — by bringing them into open discussion.

She writes, “While teachers can easily see bruises or cuts — the physical evidence of bullying — it is more difficult to see emotional pain.”

The opportunities for conflict are personified in the cast of characters found in most girl cliques. Each member’s role manifests itself in a scenario comparable to a high-stakes soap drama: The so-called “villains” can be easy to spot — as well as the victims.

So, too, can the heroes. The role (or label) used to describe a “Floater” represents a secure individual who is flexible, charitable, and not easily intimidated. She refuses to be restricted to a single group of friends, and is genuinely liked and respected by her peers — without intimidating them. She will not sacrifice herself for social status and can accommodate all types of people.

In contrast to the Floater, eight labels you might wish to avoid are described in Rosalind Wiseman’s original (but still relevant) work, Queen Bees and Wannabes. Here’s an introduction to each of them…

  • Queen Bee. She rules the roost with an iron hand. She can be affectionate and charming with some people — but often cruel and intolerant with others. Often she will dominate her relationships with friends, teachers, and parents. Her main goal is to gain power over others. Often in this process she loses a true sense of self, which is supplanted by her own self-image, and a general cynicism of human nature.
  • Wannabe/Pleaser/Messenger. These labels share similar and frequent characteristics of most girls, either inside or outside the clan. She’ll do anything to win the blessings of the Queen Bee, and is terrified of losing her social rank. She will often “suck up” to others of higher stature…even if it means spreading lies and gossip about a Target. She feels compelled to “fit in” and compromised by the need to be relevant and accepted.
  • Banker. Harmless on the surface, but cool and calculating inside, the Banker plans and observes meticulously, acting out of her own self-interest. She has schemed to become a ‘listener’ to her peers, pretending to be their pal, and secretly ‘banking’ the information she hears for her own ambitions. She has gleaned enough personal data from members of the clique to pose a substantial threat to their social status, and the others have learned to fear her disclosures.
  • Torn Bystander. She is terrified of the Queen Bee and dislikes her, but is easily intimidated by her influence. She’s not good at saying “no” to her peers, and wants everyone to just get along. Often she finds she must choose between the approval of the clique and her own personal interests, and often “dumbs” herself down so as not to appear too bright or threatening.
  • Sidekick. She is closest to the Queen Bee and represents her Second-in-Command. The Queen Bee is her authority figure; not her parents or other adults. She mimics the Queen Bee’s clothes, style, and goals — and uses her influence to control others in the clique. She gains popularity by endorsing the Queen Bee’s level of power over others. The disadvantage is that she may eventually forget who she is.
  • Target. For whatever the reason, the Target has been branded as a “loser” and has been isolated by the other girls to be humiliated and scorned. She feels helpless and rejected, and is pessimistic about her chances of success. Her self-esteem takes a beating. If she discovers her inner strength, she will learn to feel empathetic towards others who are similarly downcast.

The profiles, above, may sound harsh and unflattering, but that’s because struggling personalities subjected to peer pressure often lose a true sense of themselves. For a girl who’s in a clique or destined to be, it’s safer to chuck these labels (if she can) to pursue the label marked Floater. (In principle, the Floater doesn’t share the “exclusive” mentality found in most similar organizations or clans.)

Most labels are fluid and ubiquitous, in the grand scheme of things. As Samsa concludes in her article, “we all take on different roles in different peer groups. Sometimes we might participate in relational aggression; other times we might be the target or a bystander. These roles are not set in stone and will change throughout our lives. We must remind our students that it’s OK to take on a different, unfamiliar role in order to break the cycle of relational aggression.”

Adolescence can be a stormy period, riddled with uncertainty and despair. Most members of a girl clique eventually find their path to maturity, despite their angst-ridden childhood. To aid them on this journey, teachers like Ashley Lauren Samsa (and others) continue to fight their battle to render the mortal storm of youth as painless as possible.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. <![CDATA[What Does Trump’s MoCA Cognitive Test Really Tell Us?]]> 2018-01-18T04:30:18Z 2018-01-17T15:22:39Z President Trump recently underwent his annual physical checkup. At Trump’s apparent insistence, the physician also administered a test of cognitive ability, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).

Some are citing this test to demonstrate that Trump does not have a mental illness or any other personality disorder. However, what does this test really tell us about the president’s mental health?

Developed in the early 2000s at Montreal’s McGill University by a group of researchers, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is a simple paper-and-pencil test meant to detect mild cognitive impairment and cognitive degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It takes about 10 to 12 minutes to complete and is indicated for people where a physician may have reason to suspect possible cognitive deficits or dementia.

That is, MoCA tests to see if a person is having significant thinking or memory problems.

Most healthy adults have no problem with this test and can easily do well on it — a score of 26 and higher generally indicates normal cognitive functioning. In the validity study of the MoCA, healthy subjects who had no cognitive deficits had an average score of 27.4. People with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) had an average score of 22.1, and those with Alzheimer’s disease averaged only 16.2.1 While the Cochrane Collaboration review of the test showed it detects 94 percent of people with dementia, it is not very accurate:

…[T]he test also produced a high proportion of false positives, that is people who did not have dementia but tested positive at the ‘less than 26’ cut-off. In the studies we reviewed, over 40 percent of people without dementia would have been incorrectly diagnosed with dementia using the MoCA.

Does This Mean Trump is Mentally Healthy?

To be clear, this is not a general test of a person’s mental health or personality. There are psychological assessments that can test for those things — this is not one of them. This test can no more tell us about the general mental health or personality traits of an individual than a monkey could.

Tests that could tell us a lot more about the president’s mental health and personality include MCMI-III or the MMPI-2.

The fact that our president scored well on this test is to be expected. It would be highly unusual — not to mention disturbing — if he had anything less than 27 or 28. Chances are, nearly every single person reading this article would score similarly high on it. If someone scored under 26 on the MoCA, you would be concerned and send them for a further neuropsychological assessment to better understand what’s going on with them.

So no, we don’t know whether Trump is mentally healthy or not. All we learned is that he’s not suffering from mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s. I would hope that no sitting president would ever suffer from either.

Can We Trust the Person Who Administered It?

In general, this test is usually administered by a healthcare professional who has had training in understanding how to administer and score the test properly. This group includes many physicians, because it’s something that can be given during an annual checkup.

While I believe Trump scored well or even perfectly on the test, there’s reason to suspect the validity of the president’s checkup.

Why? Because the physician who examined Trump — Dr. Ronny Jackson — apparently stretched the truth about the President’s height — 6′ 3″ — and weight — 239 lbs. (Prior to this checkup, Trump’s height was reportedly listed by New York State as 6′ 2″. Did he suddenly grow an inch at 70 years old?) President Obama’s height is listed as 6′ 1″, which means Trump would clearly be taller than Trump. But tell me what your eyes tell you — does it look like there’s a significant difference between the two presidents’ heights?

Trump standing next to Obama

Press down on Trump’s comb-over and he looks to be the same height as Obama — 6′ 1″.

Why did the physician fib about these measurements? One possible explanation is so that Trump wouldn’t be classified as being medically “obese.” If the physician listed his actual height, Trump would have carried a medical label of “obese” — which I suspect wouldn’t sit well with Trump, known for his vanity.

If he would stretch the truth about these kinds of basics, it makes you wonder how much you can believe from this checkup.

We live in odd times. In the more than 22 years of publishing and writing for Psych Central, I’ve never had to focus on a leader’s mental health as much as I’ve had to over the past 2 years.


Davis DHJ, Creavin ST, Yip JLY, Noel-Storr AH, Brayne C, Cullum S. (2015). Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Cochrane Collaboration review.

Nasreddine ZS, Phillips NA, et al. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment, MoCA: A brief screening tool for mild cognitive impairment. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005;53:695-699.

Smith T, Gildeh N, et al. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment: validity and utility in a memory clinic setting.Can J Psychiatry. 2007;52:329-332.


  1. The scoring of MoCA is as simple as the test itself: Visuospatial and Executive Functioning: 5 points; Animal Naming: 3 points; Attention: 6 points; Language: 3 points; Abstraction: 2 points; Delayed Recall (Short-term Memory): 5 points; Orientation: 6 points; and Education Level: 1 point is added to the test-taker’s score if he or she has 12 years or less of formal education.
Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW <![CDATA[How to Start Conversations with Strangers]]> 2018-01-15T18:00:04Z 2018-01-17T11:30:20Z Connecting with StrangersHow do you enter conversations with people you don’t know?

I grew up with gregarious parents and have enthusiastically emulated them. Although my mother referred to herself as shy, I never observed her that way. She seemed to be able to engage with people in various scenarios. My father was raised in South Philly (home of the iconic pugilist character Rocky) where talking to people on the stoop or street corner was commonplace. He learned how to communicate with those from all walks of life from his own blue collar, working class sensibilities. No matter where our family went, it seems my father always knew someone, and it took forever to say goodbye as we attempted to take our leave. I would also marvel as he would strike up conversations with people he had never met. 

As a therapist, I work with clients who, in some cases, experience social anxiety, which is defined by the Social Anxiety Institute as “the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance,” and don’t have the comfort level that would allow them to do that. The jury is still out about whether it is nature or nurture.

What some tell me is that they don’t know how to initiate or join in. I think of it like jump rope and knowing when and how to jump in without tripping over the rope held on either end as it spins over your head and on to the ground.

Call out your inner nerd

I have also used a tool with my teen clients who often walk down the hallways at school, head down, as they avoid eye contact, wishing themselves invisible. I ask them to imagine cartoon character-like thought bubbles above the heads of their classmates as they make their own way to classes. In each one is a self- deprecating message, like “OMG, I can’t believe I’m such a dork.” “How could I have blown that test?” “She’s never going to go out with me, since she’s out of my league.” “Why did I wear this dress today? I look so fat.” By the time we get through this exercise, they are usually laughing as they realize that everyone harbors an inner nerd who thinks others are way cooler than they are.

I add to it that when I was their age (more than four decades ago), I never felt like one of the cool kids. It wasn’t until I attended my 35th high school reunion that some of those I looked up to and wanted to be like, informed me that they thought I was one of the cool kids and wanted to be like me, including one who said he had a crush on me. I asked, “Couldn’t you have told me that back then? It would have prevented a lot of adolescent angst.”

What keeps people from throwing caution to the wind and jumping in?

  • Fear of not having anything meaningful to say.
  • Stumbling over their words or stuttering. I tell my clients the story of actor James Earl Jones whose stuttering was almost debilitating until a teacher helped him to recover by having him read poetry aloud. Jones was featured on the website for The Stuttering Foundation.
  • Fear of forgetting what they want to communicate.
  • Poor self-image and a belief that they are not worthy of another’s time or attention.
  • Reinforcement by caregivers and other adults of their worst perception of themselves.
  • Not wanting to be rude by joining a conversation without invitation.
  • Feeling under-educated about current events.
  • Somatic symptoms such as dry mouth, heart palpitations, perspiration, facial flushing, and dizziness.

Recently, when I walked into a local gathering place to hear a friend perform, I asked to sit at the end of a table where a few others had already made themselves comfortable, beverages in front of them. A woman smiled and motioned me to be there. I enjoyed the music and then overheard part of their conversation about having been married by a monk in Thailand and (with only a slight hesitation), I invited myself in and inquired about the experience. As an interfaith minister, I am fascinated about how couples meet as well as their unique wedding ceremonies. They welcomed me in and a conversation ensued about the state of the world, relationships, The Dalai Lama — who I interviewed in 2008 — spirituality, life in our town, and serendipity/synchronicity. None of that would have happened, had I not been willing to ask to sit with them or initiate conversation. I am also an adept listener who is truly interested in hearing other people’s stories.

I had inquired of others on social media: “What allows you to converse with strangers?”

“I am good at interviewing people, so I like to ask them questions but not private stuff. Many people like to talk about themselves and like knowing someone is interested. I am not good at walking up to people and introducing myself. I do like to listen though.”

“I am very good at walking up to people and introducing myself, but insecurities immediately set in — about people being silently turned off by what I’m saying, about talking too long, about dragging out unwelcome topics — which sends me into a communication death spiral of anxiety & self-consciousness.”

“I can go into a ladies’ room and come out with three new friends.”

“I’ll talk to anyone. My husband says he’s learning to do the same thing. It can be the weather, kids, or anything. Went to the post office for my house and a woman came in. We ended up taking about kids, grandkids, her thyroid issues, my thyroid issues, her recent bone scan.”

When I moved from CT to PA, I knew almost no one and had no ready-made social circle. I am naturally introverted and have some social anxiety, so I would bring yarn with me most places. I crochet and often people would stop to talk to me, comment on what I am making, and then sometimes start a longer conversation. I still bring yarn with me a lot of the time. Most of what I make are gifts for people, usually new babies. If no one talks to me, I am still enjoying something I love and making something beautiful for someone.”

Remember that everyone you now know, and love was once a stranger and your relationship with began with a conversation.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[How Pets Can Teach Children about Life, Love and Loss]]> 2018-01-15T15:25:11Z 2018-01-16T21:30:47Z

Why kids and pets are the perfect pairing.

As parents, we try to protect our children from life’s pain, so we tend to keep them in an illusion — a rosy bubble — as if life is a one-sided experience. At least, I do, while knowing full well that life is both pain and joy, highs and lows, light and darkness. But recently I had to reconsider my parenting approach, as the time had come for me to outgrow it and step out of my own bubble of fear.

“Mommy, Mommy!” my five-year-old son, Samuel, emits a squeal of excitement. “Can we get a puppy, too?”

We’re at the park, on a playground facing a fenced area for dogs, where dozens of pets are running free, chasing after Frisbees and balls thrown by their human mommies and daddies. A heavy bomb drops straight from my mind into my heart:

Three years ago, we lost Max, our family dog, to an illness.

It was difficult beyond words. Some say that people grieve more deeply over losing a pet than a family member. Perhaps. So how can I put myself and my son through this excruciating experience again? Because at some point, inevitably, it will come.

What Parents Can Tell Kids to Help Them Be Healthy, Happy & Confident

Later, at home, burrowing into the couch and cradling a cup of warm chamomile tea while scrolling through the TV channels, I recall all the happy moments I had with Max. From the first day I brought him home from the rescue event at our local Petco — a small ball of fur with enormous black eyes, deep and expressive — he spontaneously claimed my heart and my pillow.

But then my mind wanders off to some abstract, melancholy thoughts about life and stumbles upon the pre-ordained fact that, sooner or later, we will all lose someone dear, and it will shatter our hearts into thousands of pieces.

So what are we supposed to do? Stay close-hearted and disconnected from the vast variety of life’s experiences out of fear of getting hurt? Definitely, it’s the safer way, but is that really living? After all, we cannot hide from life’s pain.

And even if we try to crawl into some dark hole and become invisible to avoid bad things happening to us, that’s simply existing and not fully living. Right?

I do believe that a variety of experiences make our lives richer and more exciting and fulfilling. So the solution is not to control life’s contrast, but to learn how to develop coping skills to withstand its storms.

If only we could trust our ability to manage life’s pain, then regain our emotional balance and the faith to keep on going, joyfully! And that’s the key because it’s not what happens to us that causes us pain, but our prolonged emotional response — usually the belief that “something went wrong,” when in fact, it didn’t! Life just happened.

Where we get into trouble is when we deny ourselves the right to feel negative emotions.

What we resist persists, and in time grows even stronger. But once we realize that life is inherently both joy and happiness, sadness and grief, and that all emotions are normal, healthy states in our human experience, we can make pain our friend, shaking its clammy hand — and we immediately feel better, because acceptance brings peace. It’s just how the psychology works, the “law of dominant effect.”

What happens in a dark room when you turn on the light? The darkness dissipates, and the same thing happens to our pain when we surrender to it.

My eyes fall on my son, playing on his iPod next to me, and I smile. I love him so much! He is my fifth child, and by now I know a little about the parenting journey, and how each bump on the road is a great opportunity to demonstrate to our children how we handle a breakdown. Our kids, by default, are observing the way we handle life, absorbing all our fears and insecurities, internalizing them and gradually even becoming them.

This understanding always gives me chills. So perhaps getting a puppy and letting her (it must be a girl!) fill our hearts with happiness and joy, and enjoying her delicious presence for as long as it’s meant to be is the right thing to do.

And then, when the sad day comes, we’ll cry together, grieve together, and cherish the memories in our hearts forever. It’s an experience we wouldn’t trade for anything — even for avoiding the inevitable pain of parting.

Besides, it’s good for kids to own a pet.

It teaches them responsibility and opens their hearts to compassion, plus they develop a sense of selfless contribution and respect for another living creature.

And most important, my kids will develop coping skills: learning to deal with upsets early on; understanding that emotional pain is a normal aspect of human experience; and finding healthy ways to soothe their discomfort.

How to Build Self-Esteem in Children (Without Making Them Feel Entitled)

Kids learn these from us, their less-than-perfect parents trying to do their best, who (like me) may listen to soft, meditative music, take a lavender-scented bubble bath, call a positive, reassuring friend, or sip warm milk or herbal tea with honey. Or binge-watch Harry Potter movies, if all else fails. And in time, as the cloud of sadness begins to lift, the light of excitement will emerge, guiding us forward toward brand new experiences.

And so, the invisible bubble of protection around my son bursts open, our eyes connect and I wink at him, responding to his happy smile. After all, he’s not a fragile, helpless kid, but a confident, independent little person. I get excited for our new adventure together, as if already tasting her sweet kisses on my lips and her puppy breath on my cheek.

Already, I am feeling her presence serving its purpose — to teach me how to love purely and unconditionally, the way she does, leaving a permanent paw print of love on my heart. After all, pets are angels sent by God to diffuse our human nastiness. So how can I deprive my son of experiencing that?

This guest article originally appeared on What Having A Pet Can Teach Your Kid About Life, Love, And Yes, Even Loss.

Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC <![CDATA[4 Ways to Prevent Being Tempted to Cheat]]> 2018-01-17T04:17:11Z 2018-01-16T16:45:05Z When you get married or start a relationship the idea of staying faithful seems like an easy one for most people. But time and circumstances can take their toll and bring changes in a relationship. Even if your relationship is solid, temptation can appear when you least expect it and have an effect that takes even you by surprise.

There is no question that infidelity is severely and, at times, irreparably damaging to your relationship. Between the hurt, broken trust and human collateral (kids, family, friends), cheating is always a bad choice. So, what can you do to — as much as possible — “affair proof” your relationship? Check out the tips below for important ways to keep your vows and promises strong.

  • Say I love you often — and mean it. The words “I love you” are powerful and should be taken seriously. Make a point to not only remind your partner that you love her or him, but to remind yourself why. Finding reasons to value and appreciate your partner is crucial to maintaining your connection and therefore overcoming temptation. Feeling your sincerity will help your partner avoid temptation as well. Take a moment a few times a month (more if you can) to think about the reasons you love your partner. Tell your partner what they are and let your partner know how much your relationship means to you.
  • Spend time together. Seems simple, but we all know with work, kids and life in general that people can fall into that ships-passing-in-the-night routine. Proximity is important when creating desire and connection. Too much time spent with others and not balanced with needed time together can create disconnection and allow temptation to strengthen.
  • Steer clear of bad influences. When friends are behaving badly it can start to open the door, even just psychologically, for it to be okay for you to do the same. If you have a friend who is cheating, distance yourself. If you feel the need to counsel your friend on making better choices then do so, but beware of your friend’s justifications and influence on you. People look for excuses that make their bad decisions seem okay and some people can be very persuasive. They may even draw you in with comparisons between your life and theirs. Steer clear. Remember that even people you respect and love can make poor and damaging choices.
  • Have sex — with your partner. Sex isn’t the only way or reason people cheat, but it is one of the most common. Relationships can fall into a rut and there are a number of reasons your sex life may suffer, but a healthy sex life is as important a component in a healthy relationship as anything else. So make an effort to keep the passion alive. If your partner isn’t interested find out why. Maybe there is something you need to address within your relationship or something going on with your partner that he or she needs to talk about.

Cheating can be a relationship killer. An affair makes staying in a marriage or relationship very difficult. At best it takes years to overcome and some of the damage can never be undone.

If you find yourself thinking about straying, consider changing your surroundings. You can’t always control your internal reaction to others, but you can control your outward behavior and your exposure to temptation. If you can’t seem to get past the urges to cheat you should consider speaking with a professional counselor. There may be issues that you need assistance to work through. Also, learning strategies to stay faithful can be invaluable.

Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: January 16, 2018]]> 2018-01-15T20:08:29Z 2018-01-16T11:30:12Z Many of you may not know this, but I live in Hawaii. Most days are the same when you live on an island. We don’t get seasons here, and for much of the year news is rather light.

This is why when I received a text from my dad and our emergency alert system that a missile was on its way and it was not a drill, it was pretty terrifying.

Fortunately, I missed most of the drama since by the time I woke up, everyone discovered it was indeed a mistake.

Yet, it’s been a few days now. Every once in awhile while it was quiet, I’d feel a surge of fear. What if it was real?

As I write this it’s Martin Luther King Day. Reading through all of his quotes are like strings of hope, a soothing balm to heal the soul. This one in particular has helped me: “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

I decided that courage and love are far more powerful than fear. As you attack your own personal struggles, I hope his words, which you can also read more about here, light your way.

7 Signs You May Be Counter-Dependent
(Childhood Emotional Neglect) – You have a general feeling of emptiness and unhappiness. If you struggle with asking others for help, you’re probably suffering from counter-dependence.

Good Fathers Forced into So-Called Abandonment
(Full Heart, Empty Arms) – This shocking post shows what can happen to children abused and tormented for loving an alienated parent.

When Depression Lies to You, Remind Yourself of the Truth
(From the Desk to the Couch) – Eating carbs, staying home and being irritable aren’t normally signs associated with depression. But according to this, it could be evidence that it’s returning.

Rejecting the Helpful Narcissist (Who Always Knows Best)
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – How can being helpful signal narcissism? Read this to see why the narcissist in your life will help you with everything even when you don’t want them to.

Describing A Narcissistic Parent’s Abuse
(Therapy Soup) – If you were raised by a narcissistic parent, you were robbed of your own feelings. Here are the other things that were taken from you.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[5 Ways to Keep Going When Life Feels on Hold]]> 2018-01-16T15:41:54Z 2018-01-15T21:30:15Z

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” — Johann Wolfang von Goethe

Silence. Not a word.

Another day is over. The news you were waiting for didn’t arrive.

Everyone else around you keeps moving. They know where they’re going.

You don’t. You watch the days go by and think of all the things you could have done. You feel like you’re wasting your time.

It seems pretty pointless. You’re not where you want to be.

Sometimes we have to wait.

You left one job, but the next one is not yet in sight. You want to go back to the soccer field, but your injury is not yet healed. You’re stuck in a city you just want to leave behind. Or you just simply don’t know what to do next.

In May, my husband and I moved across the world from Germany, my home for more than twenty-five years, to Canada, his home country. We had already applied for permanent residence for me months before we came.

Give it a few weeks and it will arrive, we thought. Then I could start looking for a job. Start my career. Move forward.

Weeks became months. August came and I was still hopeful. I checked the mailbox every day. Maybe today we would hear something. But still nothing.

The heat of summer started to fade and I became more anxious. I was expecting to hear the big news any day, but the leaves turned colorful and pumpkins popped up in the stores, and I still hadn’t received my permit.

Over the course of a summer and a fall, I was watching my friends moving forward. Applying for new jobs, preparing for interviews, getting promoted. Friends from Germany I graduated with were starting their careers. Some of them started a family.

I was waiting. And the longer the waiting continued, the more anxious I became. As a 27-year-old graduate, I felt like I had no time to waste.

Even more, I was ready to work. Apply what I’ve learned. Improve my skillset. Learn new things. Contribute to a cause. Be part of something. Instead, I had to wait. I felt slowed down. Left behind.

But as fall came, something in me started to change slowly. I started to come to terms with my circumstances. My situation hadn‘t changed; I had. I realized that there were five things that, with the help of my husband and family, helped me turn this waiting period around.

1. Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself

This point is crucial.

Some mornings you might not even want to get out of bed. What for? Even if you do, you feel no motivation to get anything started or done. What’s the point?

It might seem like life has hit the pause button, but life is still happening. And it is still up to you what you do with your circumstances.

So focus on what you can do. Live. Right now. Every day. Don’t make this all about the wait. Make it about you. Then there is really no reason to feel sorry at all.

2. Watch Your Mouth

Words are powerful, even if they aren’t said out loud. The way you think and talk about your situation will determine how you feel about it.

In the evening, when my husband asked me what I did that day, I quite often said, “Nothing, really.” Of course I had done a lot of things every day. What I really meant was: “I did a lot of things, but they don’t count.” They didn’t count in my head because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. It’s not what I thought I should be doing.

Silly, I know. And my husband would call me on it, which eventually changed my language. And that eventually changed my perspective on things.

Share your crappy feelings with people. Be honest with them. But make sure these are people willing to help you. Who challenge you. Who don’t let you sit in it.

Guard your thoughts when you are alone. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in your negative feelings. Put a visual reminder on your desk. A quote maybe. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Have a copy of it in your wallet.

You might not be where you want to be in the long run, but that’s life. It takes time. As long as you are on the right path, every step counts. And if you don’t know where your path is going, you were just given the perfect opportunity to find out!

3. Don’t Make Excuses

It’s easy to find reasons not to do things. Especially when you’re waiting. Because what you really want is just around the corner. The present is just a weird in-between-space.

Wrong. Now is the time to try new things. To step out of your comfort zone. To discover new passions and gifts.

In the past months, I taught myself more about cameras and video editing, I took a guest blogging course, I started to take on a few creative projects around the house, I connected to new people in the city, and I explored my new home.

Some of it might help my career. Some of it was purely for enjoyment. But everything I did helped me to learn—what I enjoy, what I am good at, how I want to live my life.

So pick one thing you want to do. A creative project. A class. Your own book. Start it. Commit to it. Don’t be scared that it’s going to take you a lot of time. Let it take you out of your comfort zone. You don’t have to know yet where it’s going to take you.

4. Don’t Compare

So you’ve tried all of the above. You’ve done good work. You feel great.

But then you start comparing yourself to the people around you. Friends, family, coworkers.

Of course, you pick the ones who aren’t in a similar situation. Those who know exactly what they want. Those who just did the big move out of the city. Those who just got a job.

Don’t. I know it’s hard, because it feels like it’s being rubbed in your face: you’re not there yet. And the whole cycle of feeling sorry for yourself, negative words, and cheap excuses starts again.

Be happy for these people. Remember that one day, it’s going to be you. It’s just going to take a few extra steps. That’s fine. Because until then, there are plenty of opportunities and lots of life to live.

One thing that helps me is to stay away from certain people and groups on social media. I don’t blame people for posting about all the awesome things that happen in their lives. I just know my weak spot. I know I instantly compare myself. So I unfollowed a bunch of people to avoid it, for my own sake.

5. Keep Moving

You know that exercising keeps you healthy. It makes you strong and helps you stay in shape. But it also improves your mood and your sleep. It reduces stress and anxiety. It helps your brain to function better.

You, of all people, want a functioning brain. For all the reasons listed above. That’s why you need to move your physical body in this period of waiting.

Find the way to workout that works best for you. I used to run a lot, so I bought myself a new pair of runners. When I am overwhelmed with my situation, I put them on and run it off.

It can be as simple or fancy as you like—just do it. Sign up for a gym class. Join a soccer team. Go for long walks. Do yoga with the help of some YouTube videos.

Of course, this point will look differently for you if you’re waiting is caused by a physical injury. You’re doctor and physiotherapist have probably told you already what exercises and how much of it will help your body to recover.

In any case, commit to exercising. Make time for it. Stick with it.

You Can Do It

Waiting sucks. Especially when there is no end in sight and you’ve done everything you can.

But changing the way you approach this waiting period can make all the difference.

Imagine achieving a goal taking one step every single day.

Imagine learning a new skillset that will help you when you can finally take the next step.

Imagine discovering a new passion that will determine the way your life is going.

Start by trying one of these five steps tomorrow morning when you get out of bed.

Try a different step every day. Keep those that work and lose those that don’t.

You can make this period of waiting in your life a personal success!

This post is courtesy of Tiny Buddha.

John Tsilimparis, MFT <![CDATA[Depression: An Illness, Not a Choice]]> 2018-01-14T18:48:05Z 2018-01-15T16:45:38Z

I am not proud of it.

A few weeks ago and for the first time in many decades, I unpredictably dipped into a depression that, to put it mildly, kicked my ass. Haha, I’m joking.

Actually I’m not.

For the most part, throughout my life, my mental health issues have stemmed from severe anxiety and agoraphobia, with moderate depression rearing its ugly head only every now and then. But not this time. This one was more than ugly, it was hideous. Blue days, black nights — the whole shebang.

According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is a “mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest … You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities and sometimes you may feel like life isn’t worth living …More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply ‘snap out of it’ … Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy with and without really knowing why.”

When I was younger, I was intolerant of my unusually sad thoughts. And as the definition describes above, I often felt unhappy but I had no clue why. I believed that depressed people, including myself, used feeling down-in-the dumps as an excuse to give up and not be accountable in life. Or worse, that they simply wanted attention. In other words, I believed being depressed was a choice.

Last week I watched the 1957 film Gunfight at the OK Corral with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster. Douglas plays Doc Holliday; an ex-dentist turned rogue gunslinger and avid gambler. He is wanted by bounty hunters and lawmen everywhere. Doc Holliday is also dying from tuberculosis. His character is coughing incessantly, gasping for breath and needing periods of bed rest. Despite his illness, he is feared by everyone and does his share of killing bad guys throughout the film.

There is a memorable scene when Holliday is playing poker at a saloon. The poker table he is sitting at is right in front of a window. At the same time a gang of rough riders are shooting up the town. Gunshots and people screaming and yelling can be heard outside. Bullets fly past Holliday shattering lamps, liquor bottles and boring holes in the walls of the saloon. The frightened card dealer is trembling for his life as he ducks from the screaming assault of bullets. He begs Holliday to end the game and take cover. But Holliday does not flinch, blink or move a muscle despite the blizzard of lead whizzing by his head. Holliday says stoically, “Just keep dealing. I’m not breaking this run. Hit me!”

The doomed Doc Holliday does not care if he takes a bullet. He knows his illness will eventually kill him, so he chooses not to move. His fate is already sealed.

Depression can be similar. When it’s acute you don’t give a hoot. You don’t care what happens to you. The problem is most don’t get to choose like Doc Holliday.

When we are depressed, we don’t choose our thoughts — depression chooses for us. That is chilling. It’s as close to the bottom as you can get.

Another character who is desperate and suffering from an incurable disease is Walter White in the highly successful TV series Breaking Bad. White bravely and honorably chooses to make sure his family is taken care of financially before he expires from cancer. Granted he chooses a life of crime, which I am not condoning, but he is oblivious to the consequences of the law, as Doc Holliday is oblivious to the bullets.

The difference again is that both characters choose — same desperation, different cognitive process. Plus, Doc Holliday and Walter White are really dying. When you’re depressed it only feels like you are dying.

I realize now why I have always related to characters that have nothing to lose. It’s because I feel less alone when I put myself in their shoes. I know the feeling. Their resigned perspectives comfort me.

One of my teachers in middle school told me that depression was an attitude. It was a spineless way of surrendering to the fight. It was an option. I believed him just as I believed everything adults told me when I was a child. Unbeknownst to my teacher, hearing that cemented much of the shame I carried about my emotions for years.

The truth is until you experience it yourself, until you know what it’s like to not care if you get hit by a bullet or stricken with a fatal illness, the deep reality of depression is too profound for the untried mind to grasp.

So, I treated my depression with every tool that I had. The most vital one was reaching out to others because I knew I couldn’t do it alone. However, twenty years ago and beyond I would have simply invalidated my hopelessness as a faulty weakness and would not have taken steps to get well. I would even have chastised myself for “letting this happen to me.”

Although I am not Doc Holliday or Walter White thankfully, or anyone with nothing to lose, I can still commiserate with the utter desperation. When I say desperation I don’t mean being afraid. I mean the existential malaise of having temporarily lost your purpose in life and not knowing how to get it back. In other words, the lack of desire to thrive.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once defined his own antidote for the existential malaise of depression: “A happy life is impossible; the best that a man can attain is a heroic life”

Thank you, Doc Holliday and Walter White.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. <![CDATA[Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Your New Year’s Resolutions]]> 2018-01-16T05:14:37Z 2018-01-15T11:30:44Z The time-honored tradition of making New Year’s resolutions is deeply rooted in our modern culture. Perhaps because when it is a new year, we feel it’s a good time for us also to be renewed. We can change. We can become a better person.

Somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of people make New Year’s resolutions (American Medical Association, 1995; Epcot Poll, 1985). But how many people actually keep at least one of their resolutions?

Contrary to popular opinion, most people who make New Year’s resolutions keep at least one of them far longer than is believed. For example, this article in U.S. News & World Report wrongly claims that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. But it cites absolutely no research in making the claim (a claim that has now since been repeated by others).

According to the psychological research, however, you’re actually pretty likely to still have kept your New Year’s resolutions after six weeks.

In one study (Marlatt & Kaplan, 1972), researchers found that at the end of 15 weeks, 75 percent of the people said they were able to keep at least one of their resolutions. But 62 percent of women and 50 percent of men acknowledged breaking at least one of their New Year’s resolutions, according to their own self-report.

In a more recent study, Norcross et al. (1989) reported 77 percent of people studied kept their resolutions for at least one week. After a month, that number dropped to 55 percent, and after six months, only 40 percent were still keeping their resolutions. After two years, that number dropped to 19 percent.

In a 2002 study (Norcross et al.), researchers found that after six months, 46 percent of the people they studied had kept their New Year’s resolutions.

And compared to people who don’t make New Year’s resolutions but still want to change their behavior? You’re 10 times more likely to actually be successful in changing those behaviors you’ve resolved to change. That’s a pretty astounding number, and one that is far more persuasive than any other statistic.

Making a resolution sets you up for eventual success, even if it doesn’t happen in the first year. Most people who fail to keep their resolution the first time they try will continue making the same resolution in subsequent years (Norcross et al., 2002).

How to Keep Your Resolutions

Researchers have found that in order to be successful in keeping a New Year’s resolution, you need to be ready and willing to change. Resolutions forced on you by guilt or for other reasons won’t stick. You also need to feel that you have the ability and skills needed to keep your resolution. (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1989).

For instance, if you’re looking to eat more nutritional food, you need to actively research and understand why some food is not as good for you as other types of food. Then you should begin tracking your own nutritional intake to ensure you’re benefiting from your knowledge and commitment.

Porche (2014) recommends that if you want to keep your resolutions, you create an actual plan of action:

Plans of personal behavior change should include a broad goal that identifies the expected state, that is, in respect to health-related goals, the expected outcome or result of the activities. Once a goal is established, it is best to divide the goal in to SMART objectives. These SMART objectives, once accomplished, ensure that you [are] closer to establishing your goal. SMART objectives are:

Time Bound

You can break each goal into smaller, achievable objectives on a weekly or monthly basis. The key is that the more each objective meets these five characteristics, the more easily you’ll be able to measure and achieve change.

Let’s look at a concrete example.

In one study (Norcross et al., 2002), researchers found that weight loss, taking up a regular exercise program, and quitting smoking, were the three most common resolutions. For weight loss as the goal, we would set a small, achievable number in a specific time period — say 5 lbs. in two months. To achieve this goal, you would need to find specific, measurable ways you could reduce your calorie intake every day (or every week).

That’s what programs such as Weight Watchers help a person do, to become far more mindful about their daily calorie intake at every meal and snack time. Because calorie counting can be difficult and time-consuming, Weight Watchers assign simple point values to different foods. A person enrolled in Weight Watchers sets a daily point limit, and can eat foods up to that limit each day. Since your Weight Watchers daily points total will be lower than your traditional calorie intake, you will usually lose weight over time adhering to the program.

This is far more likely to work than the general goal: “I want to lose weight in 2018.” How much weight? Over what period of time? What actionable steps are you taking to achieve your goal? You see what I mean?

Articles that provide additional suggestions for helping to keep your New Year’s resolutions include:

Good luck in sticking with your resolutions this year! You can do it.


American Medical Association. (1995). New Year’s resolution survey.

Epcot Poll. (1985). Resolutions not kept long by most Americans. Lake Buena Vista, FL: Walt Disney World.

Marlatt, A.G. & Kaplan, B.E. (1972). Self-initiated attempts to change behavior: A study of New Year’s resolutions. Psychological Reports, 30, 123-131.

Norcross, JC, Mrykalo, MS, Blagys, MD. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 397-405

Norcross, JC, Ratzin, AC, & Payne, D. (1989). Ringing in the New Year; The change processes and reported outcomes of resolutions. Addictive Behaviors, 14, 205-212.

Norcross, JC & Vangarelli, DJ. (1989). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse, 1, 127-134.

Porche, Demetrius J. (2014). After the resolution: Sustaining the change. American Journal of Men’s Health, 8, 97.