Psych Central Original articles in mental health, psychology, relationships and more, published weekly. 2017-10-17T14:49:17Z Claire Nana <![CDATA[Book Review: Helping Your Angry Teen]]> 2017-10-10T14:46:51Z 2017-10-17T14:49:17Z ]]> If you are the parent of a teenager, I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced some anger. I’m also willing to bet that you were unsure how to diffuse the anger when it happened, and unsure how to get through to your teen.

In his new book, Helping Your Angry Teen: How To Reduce Anger and Build Connection Using Mindfulness and Positive Psychology, Mitch Ablett Ph.D. reassures parents that there is a way to not only restore peace in the household, but better understand the psychological conditions that contribute to a teenager’s anger. With mindfulness, Ablett says, it’s possible to find calm even in the most heated moments.

According to Ablett, when teens express anger, they are sending their parents one of four messages: they are feeling disrespected; they want space; they want validation; or they want provisions.

Ablett distinguishes between “clean” emotions, which are primary, basic reactions to stimulation from the environment, and “dirty” emotions, which arise from our thoughts about a situation. It’s important to also note that teenage anger can also mask depression, trauma, relationship distress, and anxiety.

Even if the parent-teen relationship has been toxic, Ablett promises that a connected relationship is possible by altering communication patterns in a way that conveys what Ablett calls “healing messages” to the teen.

The first step to altering patterns of communication is changing the destructive dance that parents and teens often engage in, escalating each other’s behavior and unintentionally teaching the brain to overreact.

“What’s happening here is a process of mutual triggering. The teen’s anger increases, punishing the parent. This continues until the parent’s demand, which is aversive and punishing for the teen, is either removed or the parent gives the teen what the teen wants. If the parent drops the subject, this reinforces and thereby increases the teen’s angry behavior. If the parent gives the teen what the teen wants, this reinforces the parent’s giving in behavior, making it more likely in the future,” writes Ablett.

On the other hand, with mindfulness, parents can learn to stay in the present moment, gain insight into their own thought patterns, and become less judgmental.

“Most people, most of the time – especially when angry – focus on the stressful events from the past or future stressors on the horizon. This is particularly true for parents with regard to their children. Such mental time travel away from the present is a big part of what causes us to suffer,” writes Ablett.

One technique Ablett offers to help parents stay in the moment is the PURE technique, which stands for presence, understanding, responsive leadership, and empowerment.

By infusing mindfulness into their daily lives with PURE and other techniques, parents can learn to shift their attention away from their own angry reactions and their teens’ provocations that trigger them, and instead become more aware of what is actually happening in the moment.

“Mindful presence makes things less red-hot urgent, though the situation may be extremely challenging. Presence creates a strong yet adaptable foundation for parenting in the heat of the moment,” writes Ablett.

Ablett warns, though, that mindfulness does take practice. One interesting exercise he offers, called “Fresh Eyes,” asks parents are to re-examine their teen with observational curiosity, letting go of the urge to judge, criticize, and assume anything about them. Instead, parents are asked to see their teen through fresh eyes.

Values also play an important role in parenting teenagers.

“Knowing your values gives you an emotional nudge toward what matters most, even in the heat of the moment with your kid. Your values show you your highest self as a parent,” writes Ablett.

To help parents identify their values, he suggests they draw upon their own greatest teachers, allowing what they’ve learned to guide their actions with their teen.

Through understanding their own parenting, distancing themselves from distorted thinking about their teen, and seeing behind behavior, parents can learn to sidestep power struggles, respond to anger effectively, build their resilience, and maintain composure and compassion, even when facing a crisis.

If this sounds like too tall of an order, Ablett reassures readers that the values parents most need – such as authenticity, perseverance, generosity, and compassion – are already inside of them. Parents simply need to allow them the space and time to arise.

While victory with teens is not assured, Ablett offers parents a path toward empowerment – one that chooses mindfulness, compassion, and attunement over anger. Packed with relatable research, insightful tips, helpful exercises, and even short “Ask Ablett” sections, this book is one that every parent – whether they have a teenager or not – should read.      

Helping Your Angry Teen: How To Reduce Anger and Build Connection Using Mindfulness and Positive Psychology

Mitch R. Abblett PhD
New Harbinger
May 2017
Softcover, 154 pages

Bella DePaulo <![CDATA[Book Review: Option B]]> 2017-10-10T14:35:34Z 2017-10-16T14:58:50Z ]]> Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the bestselling book Lean In, was vacationing with her seemingly healthy 47-year-old husband Dave Goldberg when her life changed in an instant. While at the gym by himself, Dave died suddenly from an arrhythmia caused by an undiagnosed coronary artery disease.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy is Sandberg’s story of the aftermath of that horrifying day. If it were just a memoir, it would be moving and insightful and well worth the read. But it is more than that.

Option B is written in Sandberg’s voice, but it is co-authored with Adam Grant, a Wharton professor and organizational psychologist. Grant brings his knowledge of the vast expanses of psychological research relevant to topics such as resilience, recovery, grief, trauma, and thriving, as well as an impressive ability to make that research clear and relatable. Both authors are interested in challenges beyond the death of a loved one.

Drawing from other people’s stories, Sandberg and Grant also discuss the psychology of job loss, serious illness, sexual assault, natural disasters, war, and other potentially traumatizing events that rob people of their Plan A for life, forcing them to reckon with Option B.

The book, then, is also a work of social science and a self-help book of the highest order. Drawing from psychological research as well as the school of hard knocks, Sandberg and Grant offer sage advice that is at once hopeful but not saccharine, realistic but not grim.

As Sandberg describes what worked for her to get through her own hardships, she is always cognizant of the important ways in which we all differ. She recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for facing adversity, building resilience, or finding joy. Importantly, she is also aware of her good fortune in having tremendous financial and interpersonal resources that so many others lack.

The chapters are organized around psychological themes, such as self-compassion, self-confidence, post-traumatic growth, raising resilient kids, and finding strength in community and at work.

In the chapter titled “Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room,” Sandberg shares how the death of her husband was often the elephant in the room that friends would ignore. Other people simply said exactly the wrong things. But when Sandberg thought back to how she had reacted to the traumas that other people had faced before she’d lost her husband, she realized she had made many of the same mistakes. She now understands why people often botch their interactions with those in pain, and offers some of the best suggestions in the book about how to do better.

In a chapter on friendship, the authors introduce the “Platinum Rule,” which is even better than the Golden Rule; at the platinum level, rather than treating others as you would want to be treated, you treat others as they want to be treated.

Woven throughout Option B is the story of telling two children that their father died, and then helping them navigate the life that follows. Sandberg and her kids composed a set of family rules and posted them in a prominent place:

“We wrote together that it’s okay to be sad and they could take breaks from any activity to cry. That it’s okay to be angry and jealous of their friends and cousins who still had fathers. That it’s okay to say to anyone that they did not want to talk about it now. That they should know that we did not deserve this,” writes Sandberg.

The potential for new insights and personal growth after a devastating experience is an important theme in Option B.

“When I wrote Lean In, some people argued that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they don’t have a partner. They were right. I didn’t get it,” Sandberg writes.

She gets it now, but more so with regard to single mothers than single women who do not have children.  She mentions, for example, that “cohabiting and same-sex couples usually don’t have the same legal protections and employment benefits as married couples,” without acknowledging that single people don’t either.

She recognizes that “single parents and widows deserve more support” when they are facing hardships, but once again, single people who are not parents or widows do not make her list. In the chapter, “To Love and Laugh Again,” though, Sandberg does concede that “being alone can be an empowering choice.” Pointing to the subtitle of my book, Singled Out, she notes that “singles are stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored, and still live happily ever after.”

It is not surprising when a book written by a powerful and well-connected person draws piles of praise. In the case of Option B, the accolades are hard-won and deeply deserved.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
April 2017
Hardcover, 227 pages

Claire Nana <![CDATA[Book Review: Face Value]]> 2017-10-10T14:33:00Z 2017-10-15T14:49:48Z ]]> The last time you voted for a political candidate, you likely thought about their political party affiliations, their positions on the issues that are important to you, and perhaps their voting record. What you might not have considered was the first impression they made on you. In his new book, Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions, Alexander Todorov makes a compelling case that perhaps you should.

It is not just that we make first impressions, Tododrov tells us, but that we make them instantly and automatically, and once formed, these impressions seem almost immune to any evidence to the contrary.

“We look at a person and immediately a certain impression of his character forms itself in us. A glance, a few spoken words are sufficient to tell us a story about a highly complex matter. We know that such impressions form with remarkable rapidity and with great ease. Subsequent observations may enrich or upset our view, but we can no more prevent its rapid growth than we can avoid perceiving a visual object or hearing a melody,” Todorov quotes Solomon Ashe, one of the founding fathers of social psychology,

Physiognomy, which is the science of reading character in faces, actually has quite a long history. In a treatise attributed to Aristotle, the character of certain animals is revealed in their form, and also revealed in the humans who resemble them.

Further evidence is found in an 1852 book titled, Comparative Physiognomy or Resemblances between Men and Animals, in which Germans are likened to lions – especially when they have heavy facial hair resembling a lion’s beard – Irish are likened to dogs, and Turks are likened to turkeys.

The faces of famous personalities, such as Julius Ceasar or Moses Mendelssohn are often described as having “superior qualities,” and physiognomy has been used to justify both the science of eugenics, and the promotion of prejudices. However, while physiognomists may have gotten a few things wrong, it is the ease with which we dispatch impressions that makes them so appealing.

The power of first impressions has been harnessed in the sports world, too. In 2014, the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks employed the services of a “face reader” to better choose their team members. Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s – one of the poorest MLB teams with one of the best winning records – has also been able to exploit the first impressions we form about baseball players to his advantage.

First impressions also predict the outcomes of important political elections. Todorov describes a study he conducted of several political candidates including Hilary Clinton and John Kerry. He determined that judgments about competence levels based on appearances alone influenced about seventy percent of the elections.

On a cognitive level, one reason first impressions can be so appealing to us is that they save energy.

“When we need to makes a decision, particularly when we have little knowledge, we rely on shortcuts: hunches, “gut” responses, stereotypes. We use shortcuts because it is easy. We are ready to leap to conclusions, especially when we are too busy, or too lazy to look for hard evidence,” writes Todorov.

And these cognitive shortcuts, Todorov writes, have real world implications. In one study of 506 small claims court cases in Massachusetts, the appearance of plaintiffs and defendants mattered almost as much as their procurement of legal support. For example, “babyfaced” defendants – as opposed to mature-faced defendants – were less likely to lose the case when the case was about intentional harm.

Factors such as the size and shape of the eyes, the position of the eyebrows, and the height and width of the forehead all create a visual image in which we instantly make a judgement about a person. Two of the most important dimensions on which we judge someone, Todorov contends, are their trustworthiness and their power. In one study Todorov conducted, it was the emergence of positive emotions that predicted trustworthiness. On the other hand, when faces were portrayed as angrier, they were rated as less trustworthy.

However, Todorov notes, we also bring our own biases to our impressions.

“At first sight, we like and trust people who resemble people whom we already like and trust,” he writes.

This influence also extends to hiring decisions. Job applicants whose faces resemble former successful employees are often judged as more qualified.

Our impressions can also be manipulated.

“The face is not a still image frozen in time but a constantly shifting stream of expressions. Yet snapshot images of different expressions predictably shape our impressions,” writes Todorov.

And when they do, the result is often suboptimal decisions that rely on the smallest possible knowledge to make broad and sweeping predictions. Bernie Madoff, for example, had a trustworthy face.

However there are some expressive features that do convey our habits. We look better after a good night sleep. Consuming carotenoids in fruits and vegetables gives us a healthy glow. The accumulation of fat under the cheeks reasonably predicts body weight.

As much as our first impressions may or may not be accurate, we are hard-wired to attend to faces, which is a good thing, because it is how we can recognize emotions. However, we must be careful not to make too much of these facial impressions, because as Todorov says, “predicting personality has always been an uncertain business.”

Filled with surprising insights and compelling evidence, Face Value shows us that not only do our first impressions hold more sway over our decisions than we’d like to admit, but that we can’t seem to help ourselves from making them.

Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions
Alexander Todorov
Princeton University Press
June 2017
Hardcover, 263 Pages

Michele Lent Hirsch <![CDATA[Book Review: What’s Mom Still Got To Do With It?]]> 2017-10-10T14:30:32Z 2017-10-14T14:53:08Z ]]> “We don’t dispute the depth of our mother’s influence in our everyday lives, but when it comes to the workplace we draw an invisible line that we think keeps Mom out,” Ilana Tolpin Levitt writes,

That’s one of the main points Levitt makes at the start of What’s Mom Still Got To Do With It? And it is, I think, a good one. While we do run the risk of over-emphasizing our parents as the root of “everything,” Levitt’s statement seems valid.

Why not explore mother-daughter dynamics in the context of career if that might lead to some interesting insights? I’ll admit that I had never really considered the connection, and that although Levitt’s self-published book has a less-than-professional look to it, I was curious to hear her ideas.

Levitt, a career counselor and a licensed mental health professional, gives some background on her own mother, a psychoanalyst who Levitt always admired. Because she followed in her mother’s path in many ways, Levitt goes on to outline the category of daughter she falls under — the “copycat” — one of several other types she has identified during her years of work with clients. Levitt is sure to clarify that readers may fit into more than one category or type; they are there to help, she explains, not to box people in.

Some daughters rebel against their mothers, Levitt writes, even when it doesn’t serve them well, and this knee-jerk reaction can affect their work lives, too. As children, some daughters had to parent their own parents, which can lead to a host of patterns in adulthood.

Levitt quotes clients who wonder how a mother’s disapproval has followed them into the workplace, and those who always feel overworked by their bosses, but can’t figure out why. She also quotes women who make strong statements such as, “I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was growing up. I just knew I didn’t want to be like my mother.”

Levitt briefly summarizes the dynamics that comprise each of her daughter archetypes. Then she runs through some quick tips to help readers recognize their patterns and actively work on their careers.

One tip in particular stood out to me as useful: “Change ‘I should’ to ‘I want.’”

The “should” in our minds “can very well be leftover pressure from when we were told [by our parents] what we should and should not do,” Levitt writes.

But doing things because we tell ourselves we have to can backfire.

“Did you ever feel like you should stay late to finish a project? If it happens often, that might make you resent your boss, and could cause you to look for a new job,” Levitt writes.

Instead of assuming that someone above you is making you do this, “decide that you’re staying late because you want to, since it potentially means less work the next day.” Converting a “should” to a “want,” Levitt notes, “helps release you from the continued adolescent battle with your […] mom.”

While this tip appears in the chapter on what Levitt calls the “maverick” daughter, it might be good advice for a range of readers. It also speaks to a larger theme of the book: make sure you actively choose how you approach your career as well as your day-to-day job, and that you’re not just reacting to the lessons you absorbed as a kid.

Levitt incorporates a number of case studies about women who have pieced together how their childhoods pervade their careers that may be helpful to readers seeking to do the same. But while Levitt does explore various types of circumstances — mothers who gave wonderful emotional support yet weren’t able to provide models for education or career; mothers who were recent immigrants, and the attendant pressures that this placed on their first-generation daughters; childhoods that got sped up or cut short due to a mother’s alcoholism — she also jumps to a lot of conclusions without providing evidence.

For instance, at one point she writes, “a girl learns not only how to view the world around her, but also how to respond to it and feel safe in it. All of this happens before she’s six years old!”

What research shows that all of this happens before the age of six? It would have been easy for Levitt to cite a theory from human development studies, or to make a quick reference to established research — and it would have made her point more believable.

Levitt also oversimplifies things at times, and assumes causality where it may not in fact exist. For instance, she writes: “When a baby is born, mother and child form a strong, emotional bond. It can be exponentially more powerful between a mother and daughter because they are the same sex.”

The majority of Levitt’s readers, statistically speaking, are probably cisgender women. But her statement makes a false assumption about gender and sex. And even if she weren’t overlooking our present-day understanding of gender identity, she’s still making other overly-bold assumptions in this realm.

The exclusion of transgender folks aside, this statement begs for sources, or an explanation. Will we really not find a single mother-son relationship as intense as mother-daughter relationships? That seems difficult to believe. There are plenty of sons who are extremely close with their moms.

Even if the idea were true, though, that mother-son pairs are never as close, could we truly say that there is just “one simple reason” for it? In reality, innumerable cultural forces are at work on all of us, and tons of complex gender dynamics and expectations affect the relationships within each family. Levitt’s “one” reason without any sources behind it seems suspect.

The book, then, definitely needs polishing. But even with some oversimplified pronouncements and a lack of references to sources, Levitt may spark an idea in readers who haven’t been able to figure out why their jobs are going (or not going) a certain way.

All of the book’s shortcomings aside, its case studies, and Levitt’s insights from her clients, might help.

What’s Mom Still Got To Do With It? Breathe New Life Into Your Career By Understanding Your Mother-Daughter Relationship
Ilana Tolpin Levitt
January 2017
Paperback, 160 pages

Sophia Dembling <![CDATA[Book Review: Bored & Brilliant]]> 2017-10-10T14:27:32Z 2017-10-13T14:55:55Z ]]> Journalist Manoush Zomorodi is the formidable mind behind Note to Self, an engaging podcast focused on the intersection of technology and humanity, and the book Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self. The latter is an outgrowth of an early experiment on the podcast that was successful beyond Zomorodi’s imagination.

The Bored and Brilliant project was a series of simple, but not-so-easy challenges that were designed to help listeners get their smartphone use under control. The premise for the project was that an idle mind is fertile ground for the seeds of creativity, but our endless swiping, tapping, and digital interactions ensure that our minds never have an opportunity to drift into this “default mode,” where fresh ideas germinate.

When they launched the Bored and Brilliant project on the podcast, Zomorodi and her team expected a few thousand people to participate. Ultimately, more than 20,000 people signed up to participate in challenges like tracking the amount of time they spent with their technology, and deleting the apps they found to be the greatest time sucks from their phones — even if for just one day. (For Zomorodi, the latter was a game called Two Dots, which she found so addictive that she even missed her subway stop one day because she was busy swiping dots.)

The book Bored and Brilliant takes the same premise and challenges and expands on them. Zomorodi begins by making a case for the benefits of boredom, citing copious research, expert interviews, and quotes from podcast listeners about both their concerns about technology use, and their experiences with the Bored and Brilliant challenges.

The book is not an anti-tech screed; it is quite the opposite. Zomorodi acknowledges both the benefits of technology and the reality that it is an immutable fact of modern life. As such, the goal is not to give up our smartphones, but to make sure that we don’t allow them to hijack our brains and time. After all, technology designers are not in it to improve the quality of our lives; they’re in it to make money, and that means ensuring that we tap, swipe, and interact with their products as much as possible. Zomorodi credits Google design strategist Golden Krishna for the observation that, “the only people who refer to their customers as ‘users’ are drug dealers—and technologists.”

As a good journalist, Zomorodi presents the issues with balance. For example, she gives fair representation to both experts who view technology as addictive and those who scoff at the characterization.

Is technology addiction a true addiction? Maybe, maybe not. But have you been seduced into giving away your idle time to the entertainment center in your pocket (or, more problematically, in your hand, always)? Found yourself ignoring your kiddos for your Facebook feed? Succumbed to the surprising phenomenon of “self-interruption”? Needlessly checked email when you should be concentrating on a job? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you have probably felt that nagging worry that your phone has wormed its way into your life in some unhealthy ways.

Zomorodi backs up her arguments with persuasive research. In discussing how reading on a screen may be damaging our ability to deeply process the written word, she cites research in which fifty adults were given the same short story, with half reading it in a paperback and the other half on a Kindle e-reader.

“The Kindle readers performed significantly worse when asked to place fourteen events that happened in the story in the correct order…Basically, we are losing our ability to slow-read by giving up the practice of it,” writes Zomorodi.

Although we believe the thousands of photos we upload to Instagram will help us remember our lives better, it turns out that taking photos actually ensures we remember less of our experiences.

“Cameras, as amazing as they are, can’t compare to what the brain is capable of with input from the eyes and the ears. Cameras are a lesser version of the human information processing system,” says psychologist Linda Henkel.

One strength of Bored and Brilliant is that it doesn’t just bemoan the problem and the changing world, but also provides seven challenges to help readers become a conscious user of technology, rather than an automaton swiper and tapper.

Zomorodi suggests reading the entire book first — which is no hardship, since her writing voice is as friendly, down-to-earth, and accessible as her podcast voice — before trying the challenges.

She doesn’t ask for miracles, but Zomorodi hopes readers will try each challenge for one day. For one day, track your usage. For one day, keep your phone out of sight whenever you are in transit. For one day, don’t take any photos. For one day, don’t use the app that has an insidious way of sucking you in for longer than you intended.

The idea is less about drastic change as it is about awareness; of how much of your precious life you are allowing to be monopolized by your technology; of what you are not producing during the time you are devoting to apps; and of what your mind is capable of when given the chance to wander at will.

In fact, when the podcast challenge ended Zomorodi was disappointed to find that collectively, participants shaved only six minutes off their phone use for the week of the challenge. But the voices of participants suggest that the result was more than the sum of its minutes.

“I feel like I’m awakening from an extended mental hibernation,” one said.

And, Zomorodi writes, “writers finally finished their manuscripts, entrepreneurs solved those knotty problems at work, teachers had more eye contact with students in class.”

Bored and Brilliant is the right information at the right time, presented in the right way. It’s important, easy to digest, and interactive. It should come packaged with every new smartphone purchase.

Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self
Manoush Zomorodi
St. Martin’s Press
September 2017
Hardcover, 208 pages

Dave Schultz <![CDATA[Book Review: One Minute Mentoring]]> 2017-10-10T14:25:30Z 2017-10-12T14:54:28Z ]]> Many of you will recall Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager series from the 1980s and 1990s. Blanchard has written many books since then, some of which have been updated and re-released. Claire Diaz-Ortiz  has also written seven books, and has enjoyed a career with Twitter as well as being a public speaker and blogger. Blanchard and Diaz-Ortiz have wedded their talents to focus on the value of mentoring relationships in their new book, One Minute Mentoring.

A mentoring relationship is typically between two individuals who are usually, though not always, in a similar field of work. This relationship serves to help people achieve their goals, and can help with accelerated career development and the avoidance of pitfalls that might otherwise occur. It can help to get through particularly thorny problems, and to evaluate whether a change is in order or if a new perspective or skill is needed. The authors contrast mentoring with coaching, and emphasize that unlike coaching, mentoring is not about how to do a particular job.

One important aspect of mentoring that is often overlooked is the value that the mentor gets from the relationship. It is not just a one-way value proposition. In fact, when people serve as a mentor, they often begin to reflect more on their own career path and gain new perspectives on problems they may be facing. They may begin to question their own tactics, such as the ways they manage staff and how their behavior might be interpreted. Being a mentor can also rejuvenate a veteran employee who may be looking for a way to freshen or liven up their work without making a job change.

The authors share a valuable story about a fictional younger employee in a sales position. He is not advancing in his work as quickly as he did in the beginning, and he wonders why. As he discusses his stagnation with family members and friends, he is naturally led to the idea of having a mentor. And yes, there is a happy ending.

One Minute Mentoring has some of the same characteristics that made the One Minute Manager series successful. It is an “easy” read, meaning it is written is common language and with simple, straightforward statements. No philosophy, just clear direction. At 130 pages, the book is short. It can be read in an evening, although one may choose to read it more slowly, or re-read it to gain better understanding. Chapters end with “One Minute Insights,” or summaries which emphasize the key points from each chapter.

This book takes readers through the finer points of what can be gained from a mentoring relationship, including finding the right mentor, goal-setting, defining the relationship, networking, sharing, communication, reviewing, adjusting, and more.

In the latter part of the book, the focus shifts to becoming a mentor and creating a mentor program in one’s own work setting. For logistical reasons, the authors advises readers to start by working with the human relations department.

This book could be good for an employee in virtually any career, but especially for those who are not as satisfied in their work as they want to be. A mentor relationship can help people find the missing pieces to get more satisfaction out of their current job, or to decide that a job change makes sense for them. It could also be good for those nearing retirement but losing enthusiasm. Or for those who are newer to the job or career, and looking for some experienced guidance.

It is easy to like One Minute Mentoring.

One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work with a Mentor—And Why You’ll Benefit from Being One

Ken Blanchard and Claire Diaz-Ortiz

William Morrow / Harper Collins

May 2017

Hardcover, 130 pages


Claire Nana <![CDATA[Book Review: Heal Your Mind, Heal Your Life]]> 2017-10-10T14:23:26Z 2017-10-11T14:49:40Z ]]> Occasional negative thoughts are a common feature of the human experience. While they can sometimes be justified, purposeful, and helpful in identifying pain and avoiding dangerous situations, they can also be irrational, keeping us trapped in a downward spiral of fear, avoidance, and eventually depression and anxiety. To change how we feel, says Corinne Coe in her new book, Heal Your Mind, Heal Your Life, we have to start with how we think.

“Based on my clinical experience in treating people with mental illness, the key to overcoming psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety is to treat at the cognition level rather than the emotion or physical level,” writes Coe.

It is the fear that results from irrational or catastrophic thinking, Coe contends, that causes us to avoid situations, feel trapped, and exist in an unfulfilled life.

Over time, our fear response becomes more and more exaggerated, resulting in the release of larger amounts of adrenaline, which then affects as many as sixty different hormones in the body. Especially when fear is unjustified, we remain a victim to it, learning only to avoid those situations that may trigger fear. As a result, we become trapped in our comfort zone.

“Irrational/unrealistic fear of dealing with challenging people and situation(s), and of interacting with others, and the external environment, will result in an unfulfilled, dissatisfied life,” writes Coe.

The difference between people who overreact with irrational fear and those who don’t lies in perception. The key then, is to master the accurate interpretation of our perceptions, a process which begins with our core beliefs.

“Although we are in control of what meaning we give a situation, that control largely depends on our core belief system. Cleaning out our ‘filter’ of distorted beliefs is a critical step in regaining control over of emotions, behavior, and our life,” writes Coe.

Our perceptions are reinforced by our beliefs, but our beliefs also cause us to behave in ways that then support our perceptions. So being aware of our thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions is the first step to being able to change them.

“Since our perceptions and beliefs govern how we feel about ourselves and how we behave, then it is crucial that we see ourselves for who we actually are – our ‘true self,’” writes Coe.

When our sense of self-worth is conditional or based on external factors, the result is a disparity between our real-self, and our ideal-self. The ideal-self, according to Coe, is not real; it is determined by the expectations and standards we feel placed upon us. These often include expectations we feel we should live up to, but can’t.

The way we learn to accept ourselves unconditionally and develop healthy self-esteem is through objectively screening the events in our lives. Through differentiating whether criticism is destructive or constructive, for example, we can either learn to overcome our weaknesses, adapt our lives around them, or confront the source of criticism.

“Letting go of unjustified criticisms that you have received from others and self-criticism, and only accepting those that are supported by evidence is the first step in your journey to recovery,” writes Coe.

Offering several useful examples, Coe demonstrates how we can use simple charts to collect evidence for and against our criticisms, ultimately shifting ourselves away from our attachment to our own perceptual biases. Through setting realistic standards, recognizing what we have control over (internal control) and what we don’t (external control), and identifying cognitive distortions, we can also avoid over-committing and over-pleasing; two common symptoms of low self-worth.

Coe offers objective screening as another useful way to identify our strengths and skills, ultimately enabling us to develop a ‘true identity’ which makes it much easier to seek what we want and need for a healthy, fulfilling life. This assessment technique further forms the basis of responding proactively to situations in our lives.

The difference between a reactive response and a proactive one, Coe writes, is that proactive responses assess the situation before allowing an emotional response. A reactive response, on the other hand, allows emotion to take over before an accurate assessment of the situation has occurred.

“While it is normal for you to respond to some situations by releasing a certain level of adrenalin to help you deal with the situation effectively and efficiently, it is not a normal response for your system to become so ‘flooded’ with adrenalin that is only going to make dealing with the situation more difficult,” writes Coe.

Assertiveness is also an important component of psychological health. It helps us become aware of our strengths and weaknesses, grow from mistakes and leave situations knowing that we did our best, preserving both our relationships and our self-esteem. Here Coe offers several helpful exercises and activities to help readers understand what their rights are, and how to assert them.

Practical, readable, and filled with activities and exercises to correct the negative thought patterns that often underlie psychological distress, those who suffer from depression and anxiety will find Coe’s book a helpful guide along their path toward a happier, and more satisfying life.

Heal Your Mind, Heal Your Life: A Self-Help Book for Depression and Anxiety
Corinne Coe
November 2016
Softcover, 144 pages

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW <![CDATA[How to Enhance Your Quality of Life]]> 2017-10-09T21:00:43Z 2017-10-11T13:00:27Z ]]> “Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

In his breakthrough book entitled, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, explains the connection between “being in the flow,” and living in full involvement in our day to day existence. He encourages developing fascination with a subject as a means of engagement, stating, “If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.” 

It is not merely an absorption with hedonistic pleasure, looking to fleeting external activities. Flow reflects a sense of curiosity and control of one’s life trajectory; such as setting goals and watching them come to fruition. Think of flow as resembling what athletes call “being in the zone,” which is timeless and sometimes paradoxically effortless, even as they are doing the work of performing in their sport or event. As a young competitive swimmer, I would spend hours in the pool, clocking lap after lap. As my body would move through the water, one stroke at a time, my mind would turn to what I would now consider alpha state meditation. I was not aware how much time had passed as I climbed out of the pool in chlorinated exhaustion, muscles like putty.

Flowing with it/going with it

When I consider moments of flow in my present-day life, what comes to mind are periods in which I am writing, without editing, as the words come through me and not from me. It might occur when connecting with kindred spirits, talking about “life, the universe and everything,” as highlighted in the cult classic Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

It can look like spontaneously riffing on a topic when speaking to a group, without plan, or responding to a client’s dilemma as if downloading guidance from an unseen source; letting theory fall by the wayside. It might be attributed to longevity of practice, or being an open channel for wisdom to come through. Of course, this is not unique to me or to the field of psychology, but is available to anyone with the willingness to tap in.

Quality of life is internally defined as well. Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, was a pioneer in the field of positive psychology and championed the modality of Logotherapy which has at its core, the importance of discovering meaning in life, particularly in the face of trauma. Not just quantity, but quality. Not just the years in our lives, but the life in our years. What might reap purpose and meaning for one person, may be empty for another.

Our perception of this paradigm shifts over time and within circumstances. When in the midst of a fast-paced schedule, we may miss out on those precious moments with loved ones. While engaged in the necessary details of work and home life, we may neglect our health. When in treatment for a life challenging illness, we may focus so much on the symptoms, that we forget the simple pleasures of being able to enjoy a meal or take a walk in nature.

Factors that contribute to quality of life:

  • Relationships
  • Physical well being
  • Spirituality
  • Financial stability
  • Satisfying home environment
  • Psychological well being
  • Freedom of choice
  • Attitude about life circumstances, whatever they are
  • Personal values
  • Flexibility

When asked, “How do you define quality of life? Do you feel as if you are living in alignment with it? If not, what would you do to change those dynamics?”, respondents shared their thoughts:

“I gauge my quality of life with the quality of my health. If I feel good, everything I do is high quality. I also walk straight away from stressful situations. Don’t even get involved. If I am trapped in it I never return. I can’t avoid it all but I do my best.”

“That is a difficult question. Quality of life is different for every single person. For example, one person might find it terrifying to be a quadriplegic, while another person makes the most of their time here and becomes a Paralympic athlete. Is only the athlete experiencing quality of life? I would say no. Depends on your definition of quality, your desires, your wants, your needs, your goals, your socio-economic environment, etc. Some people feel they still have quality.”

 “I would just add that for me the measure of QOL changes over time, as I learn and grow over time. It’s never been static.”

“It’s family time, friend time, community time, In balance. Fresh food, exercise and good health. Being loved and needed.”

“I would more emboldened to take courses in permaculture so I can immerse myself in that culture and community. The courses cost money and it is hard to make a living as a permaculture teacher, designer, and practitioner. I am hoping for a community who will support my financial needs in part.”

“Quality of life is like feelings…. come from within and unique to each human. My QOL may not be yours and that’s OK. As a nurse I saw the same diagnosis delivered that devastated one and inspired another. Is the cup half full or half empty? That alone likely affects one’s attitude toward their quality of life.”

“For me, I’ve created the life I want and the quality is pretty damn high … and I’ve worked hard and had some luck along the way!”

 “Quality of life is feeling good emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Kind of like the ultimate hair day.”

How can you improve your quality of life?

Stan Rockwell, PsyD <![CDATA[Book Review: The Freedom Trap]]> 2017-10-10T14:21:18Z 2017-10-10T23:19:22Z ]]> Freedom is a a buzz word that is used, and often abused. For instance, the defense of freedom is often used to justify attempts at military conquest. I have even heard it said that the sound of fighter jets from nearby airbases practicing overhead is the “sound of freedom.” Unfortunately, the word “freedom” is all too often used in efforts to divide people. It’s used to win arguments, and to win elections.

Freedom is a concept that is dearly loved and worshipped. We cherish it, at least our version of it. So what exactly is this concept of freedom that we go on and on about, sometimes hating and killing each other in its name? Certainly, freedom is an emotionally-charged word with many different meanings, meanings which change for most of us over the course of a lifetime.

Craig Hassed is an Australian physician and a leading proponent of mindfulness. He is an associate professor at Monash University, where he is a senior lecturer in the Department of General Practice. Besides mindfulness-based stress reduction, he also teaches and researches integrative medicine, mind-body medicine in medical practice, and ethics.

Hassed’s new book The Freedom Trap: Reclaiming Liberty and Wellbeing looks at how we define freedom, and examines the concept from many different angles — political, legal, philosophical, psychological, social, ethical, neurological, and scientific.

Throughout the book, Hassed examines freedom in a way that helps readers think through the concept while addressing stress, fear, anxiety, and oppression by illness and other problems of the human condition. To better illustrate his points, he employs the metaphor of a carnivorous pitcher plant, which entices an insect with sweet tasting nectar, drawing the bug further down until he cannot escape and is ultimately digested by the plant. This comparison aims to make the point that some of our concepts of freedom function in a very similar way.

Hassed is progressive and pro-freedom, but argues that as a society we have been misinformed and misguided about our ideas of what freedom means. Through evidence and stories, sayings and phrases, questions for reflection and practices, Hassed aims to help readers apply mindfulness to their understanding of freedom.

“Learn, perhaps through meditation, to stand back from and observe your thoughts without taking them as facts,” he writes.

Hassed also draws from wisdom traditions both religious and philosophical. I thought of Confucius as I read. Confucius looked to the Western Zhou for ways to find harmony and for people to behave ethically. Hassed, too, looks to the West, primarily to the classical Greek philosophers like Socrates, and to western religions.

Hassed examines freedom in terms of speech, privacy, child rearing, education, abortion, paternalism, and many other issues, and encourages readers to examine their own sense of personal responsibility and self discipline, because, he argues, there really is no freedom without responsibility and self-discipline.

I enjoyed this book, and appreciated that it made me examine and critique my own personal beliefs about freedom.

“What is the effect of not speaking those things that you feel should be spoken?…Practice speech that uplifts people and abstain from speech, even in the mind, that denigrates people,” Hassed writes toward the final pages of the book.

I will try to keep Hassed’s words of wisdom in mind.

The Freedom Trap: Reclaiming Liberty and Wellbeing
Craig Hassed
Exisle Publishing
July 2017
Softcover, 272 pages

Claire Nana <![CDATA[Book Review: Help Your Kids With Adolescence]]> 2017-10-10T14:18:51Z 2017-10-10T14:45:00Z ]]> Adolescence is often experienced as a confusing, overwhelming time for teenagers. For parents of teenagers, the years of transition from childhood to adulthood can be equally confusing and frustrating. As a result, teens and their parents frequently have questions about how to handle the many things that come up during adolescence, including physical changes, bullying, sex, peer pressure, social media use, and the development of a sense of identity. It’s easy for parents to become exasperated, wondering how they can help, without their teenager pushing them away.

Help Your Kids With Adolescence: A No-Nonsense Guide To Puberty And The Teenage Years provides an effective navigational guide that both teenagers and parents can use to successfully cope with adolescence. Organized into several sections that address the physical, emotional, and social changes that occur during adolescence, the book includes parent tips, myth busters, quick facts and more. It is as comprehensive as it is accessible. Flipping to any page will offer something useful.

The authors begin by describing the teen brain and offering explanations for the many phenomena that accompany the teenage years, from mood swings and identity development, to self-expression and gender identity.

Gender identity, according to this book, is a spectrum that includes transgender, agender (a term that describes someone who feels that they don’t belong to either gender), questioning, genderqueer, gender fluid, and androgynous. It includes helpful suggestions for teens, such as researching other people’s experiences and thoughts on gender, talking to someone they trust, and waiting to talk to their parents about gender concerns if they fear they will react negatively. For parents of teens with gender concerns, the authors suggest avoiding the urge to pressure teens to behave differently, and reminding them that it is okay to act in a way that may not conform to traditional expectations.

Although addressing the physical changes that occur with puberty can be embarrassing for both parents and teens alike, this book offers a straightforward approach to growth spurts, menstruation, changing emotions, armpit hair, bra fit, wet dreams, testicle protection, erections, building body confidence and everything in between.

The authors also underscore the importance of developing healthy habits in adolescence with a specific focus on learning to eat healthy foods and avoid disordered eating patterns. If a parent suspects an eating disorder, the book offers some helpful tips: stay calm and avoid passing judgment; try not to be pushy with advice; be prepared for the teen to reject help; avoid talking about appearance or weight in front of them; keep trying to include them in activities and encourage them to get professional help.

Eating healthy foods, frequent exercise, and adequate sleep are all important components of physical health, but teens should also know that maintaining positive mental health is equally important.

Positive mental health is characterized by self-esteem and confidence, which is often largely influenced by observing parents. By discussing challenges openly, parents set an example of resilience and can help teens see that obstacles, insurmountable as they may seem, can be overcome.

Stress can be useful when it motivates people to keep working under pressure and energizes them to complete a task. But it can also be overwhelming, leading to depression and anxiety. Here, the book offers many helpful ways to manage stress, such as exercising and playing sports, going outside, getting creative, becoming mindful, turning toward friends and family, avoiding too much time online, and seeking counseling when stress becomes unmanageable.

To help teens achieve their potential, this book provides a multitude of problem solving tips for teens and their parents, which include taking logical steps, thinking creatively, visualizing success, finding inspiration, staying motivated, celebrating success, thinking about the future, and even learning healthy financial habits.

When it comes to choosing a career, teens can begin with self-understanding. Every teen has a unique set of skills, interests and talents that they can identify in order to provide insight into what roles and fields might be a good fit.

And as much as choosing the right career is important, essential life skills such as resolving conflicts, understanding the impact of drugs and alcohol and establishing healthy relationships are just as, if not more important in the teen years.

Straightforward, sensitive, and abundantly useful, Help Your Kids With Adolescence should be essential reading for every teenager and their parent, as well as anyone who works with teens.

Help Your Kids With Adolescence: A No-Nonsense Guide To Puberty And The Teenage Years
DK Publishing
July 2017
Softcover, 245 Pages

Josh Sabey <![CDATA[I’ve Been Seeing a Therapist for Years, So Why Am I Not Getting Better?]]> 2017-10-08T02:02:49Z 2017-10-10T13:00:52Z ]]> The answer: We need to address what’s happening inside the office as well as stigma.

Therapists Spill: When You Have a Bad Therapy ExperienceDuring the creation of the documentary Going Sane I interviewed Cindy Bulik. She is perhaps the most important researcher on anorexia today. She lives between UNC where she is a distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders and Sweden where she is a professor at the Karolinska Institute. Her current research is exploring genetic influences on anorexia and by the end of our interview she asked if my entire family would be willing to give a sample of blood for the study.

She is not the single-minded professor oblivious to social customs that is often portrayed in movies — quite the opposite. She is terribly charismatic and careful in her word placement. If she doesn’t like how she said something, she will try again until she feels she has communicated just what she means. And it is with that charming and careful exactness that she told me the American mental health system was “practically third world.”

If you were there, you would have expect her to pause and reconsider her words — to add a disclaimer. I would not have been surprised if she had retracted the statement entirely. But she did not. She had said just what she wanted to say, and the purpose of this post is to explain what I believe she meant by it.

Attributes of a Third World System

The history of medicine up until the last century is almost entirely the history of placebo. The word placebo comes from Latin and is actually used in the Bible. It means to please as in “I shall please the Lord.” The religious connotations seem particularly appropriate because when we think of third-world healthcare, we think of societies that can’t separate religion from medicine. We think of shaman and witchdoctors. While I believe there is value in religious approaches to healing, it is clear that our medical interventions improved rapidly after our society was willing to put treatments to the test.  

But the placebo effect is complicated. It is very hard to know if treatments are doing more for the body than the body can do for itself. The ability to recognize and identify the placebo effect is one of the greatest steps in modern medicine. Conversely, the inability to discriminate is perhaps the basic identifier of a third-world healthcare system.

When we imagine third-world treatments we think of leeches and bloodletting and think of a time very long ago, much longer ago than we should. The placebo effect was not demonstrated until one year before 1800 when John Haygarth tested a treatment for inflammation, headaches, and rheumatism. The treatment had been invented in the United States by a doctor who claimed that metal rods made from a specific alloy would “draw of the noxious electrical fluid that lay at the root of the suffering.”

Haygarth tested the mental rods against plain wooden rods and found that the recovery rate was no different. His conclusion was that the expensive metal alloy had no special ability to dispel “electrical fluid.” That was precisely what Haygarth had expected — not particularly interesting. But it led to a question that was much more interesting and continues to be relevant today: why do doctors and patients come to believe that ineffective treatments actually work?

Repairing the Medical Field

Identifying the placebo effect was just the first step in a battle to overcome it. While researchers began to run tests that could accurately identify which treatments were effective and which treatments were simply palliative, the research did not necessarily dictate what treatments doctors actually prescribed. In the 1960s Alvin R Feinstein realized that American doctors were choosing treatments based on their own observations rather than by consulting the latest research. As a result, doctors were again being fooled by the placebo effect: Doctor gives medication to sick individual; person gets better after taking medicine; the medicine worked. It seems so obvious.

Researchers began to realize that even trained doctors can’t see past placebo. They almost always overestimated the positive effect of their treatments and forget to account for other variables: patients want to get better, and if they’re spending a lot of money for treatments then they really want to get better; over time bodies heal; extreme states tend to normalize. And so to a doctor, almost every treatment will seem to work most of the time. The exceptions are on the occasion when the variables align in a different way: when treatments don’t work and the body cannot heal itself. Then people die.

This was an American reality until the medical field created what came to be known as evidence-based practice (EBP). EBP is a method to help mental health professionals select optimal treatments for their patients by avoiding personal biases. Rather than allowing doctors to select the treatments that they have seen work, doctors were asked to consult research, research which had been specifically designed to avoid biases.

This research method is known as randomized controlled trials. The whole point of this research is to combat the hydra-like presence of the placebo effect. Think of that: it took thousands of years to identify the placebo effect and then another one hundred and sixty years to create a research and dissemination system that could combat it.

But while the medical field began its long transition into evidence-based practice, the mental health field continued business as usual.

The Problem with the Mental Health Field

Many of the issues we saw in the medical field, we see again in the mental health industry.

The problem is that today mental illnesses are rising. A profession that used to only treat extreme psychedelic cases could conceivably be treating one fifth of the American population. Mental health care is mainstream. If it is going to provide treatments, if insurance is going to pay for treatments, it’s got to become more scientific. It’s got to do what the medical field did a half century ago: admit that therapists are not very good at deciding if their treatments work.

Today, mental health practitioners claim that psychology is a science (with good reason), but most remain unwilling to be scientific. While there will always be elements of therapy and mental health that alludes science and research, there is one aspect that is observable: how effective is treatment? How does a treatment measure against a placebo? A lot of this research has already been done. In many cases, we know which treatments work and which do not.

What’s shocking, though perhaps we should expect it by now, is that even with persuasive evidence about which treatments actually work, therapists consistently assign the wrong treatments. Most therapies are little better than placebo and some do more damage than they do good. That’s what third-world medication looks like. That’s why I believe Cindy Bulik said what she said.

It took the medical field thousands of years to figure out how to avoid being fooled by placebo. Let’s hope the mental health field can be a little quicker. This time we have compelling evidence and a powerful example to move us forward.

The example, of course, is what has taken place in the medical field over the last half century since they adopted EBP. Since then, death rates for medical conditions have plummeted. The death rate of leukemia has decreased by 85%. Death rates of heart disease, AIDS, and stroke have all dramatically decreased. But suicide, the main killer in mental illness, has shown no appreciable decline. Here’s one fact we can’t ignore: Over the last fifty years, we have not gotten any better at stopping people from dying of mental illness.

There’s a lot of nitty-gritty once you get into the specific of health-care regulation, but that’s not what this article or the documentary I’ve been working on is about. This is about two stories of healthcare. One story is a success story, the other is a tragedy. Whether you believe in the currently validated treatments or not, it doesn’t really matter. EBP is a way forward. Of course, we don’t know everything we need to know about mental illness. We don’t know everything we need to know about cancer, either. But at least cancer treatments are getting better every year. That’s the key. Until things start getting better, mental health care will remain a third-world industry full of doctors who believe, like millions before them, they won’t be fooled by placebo.

If this is an issue you care about, if the fact that over 70% of therapists are assigning the wrong treatments disturbs you, then watch Going Sane to understand what you can do to help transform mental health care in America.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[ADHD and Adults: Innovative Tools to Help You Get Things Done and Thrive]]> 2017-10-06T16:12:39Z 2017-10-09T13:14:30Z ]]> Today, we tend to think of technology as the enemy. After all, it steals our attention and makes it harder to focus. And when you have ADHD, it’s hard enough to sustain your concentration. It’s hard enough not to get distracted every few minutes.

But adults with ADHD can actually use technology to their advantage. The key is to find what works for you.

Sometimes, adults with ADHD don’t employ strategies that work for them individually because they force themselves to do things the way people without ADHD do. Many compare themselves to others and feel shame for needing different tools. Many also assume that everyone else has an easy time accomplishing tasks—or doesn’t use any tools at all.

Social media makes matters worse, said Aaron Smith, a certified ADHD coach at Potential Within Reach who helps individuals with ADHD and executive functioning challenges to bridge the gap between their current performance and their potential. “Because people tend to share only their heavily edited, highly curated, and exaggeratedly positive accounts of their experiences.”

Either way, everyone needs support and guidance. Everyone—whether they have ADHD or not—needs a calendar, planner or app, Smith said. Everyone needs a system of strategies to thrive at work and at home.

Below are tech tools that Smith personally uses or his clients do. These might not work for you, but use this list as inspiration to think about what does—and to realize that there are all sorts of tools, tricks and tactics that can help you work through whatever challenges are getting in your way.

Alarmy: This is an app that “helps with the habit of hitting snooze 1,000 times or worse shutting off your alarm and going back to sleep,” said Smith, also co-host of Attention Different: An ADHD Podcast. It makes you take a photo of something before it lets you shut off the alarm.

Siri: “By using voice command on your phone or Apple watch, you can quickly input to-do lists and add reminders without having to open up your phone,” Smith said. This is important because we often grab our phones to do one task, and then end up clicking on other tabs, apps and notifications, he said. “We can find ourselves going down the rabbit hole very quickly with technology.”

Boomerang: This add-on for Gmail sends an email back to your inbox to remind you of important emails. It also schedules emails. For instance, you can draft an email at midnight and send it at 8 a.m.

Muse headband: Smith personally uses this mindfulness/meditation device, which tracks EEG brain waves and provides real-time feedback. For instance, the background noise—like the sounds from a beach—gets louder as your focus diminishes and gets quieter as you focus more on your breath, Smith said. “This is helpful because it provides stimulation and makes meditation into a more active, engaging experience.” It’s also helped Smith gain distance from his emotions and think before he acts.

Grammarly: This Chrome add-on program works in Microsoft Word and your email, helping to correct your grammar and spelling.

Tile: This is a tracking device that attaches to your purse, backpack, wallet, keys, or anything else you easily lose. Your phone alerts you when you’re getting close to finding them.

Alexa: “This neat device can read your calendar, play music, order groceries via Amazon pantry, and all sorts of cool things,” Smith said.

E-books: If you have a hard time focusing on reading an entire book, enable the narration option on devices like Kindle, which reads the text to you. Or listen on

Speech to text: Google Docs and Mac computers have built-in dictation. “This is a helpful way to write papers and get your ideas down on a page,” Smith said.

Location-based reminders: Many apps, including Google Calendar, will remind you of certain tasks when you’re in a certain place. That is, they’ll remind you to take out the trash when you enter your house, or attend your 10 a.m. meeting in the conference room when you enter your office.

Smartphone night shift mode: “Blue light has been shown to keep your brain awake at night because it simulates sunlight,” Smith said. Night shift mode changes the lighting on your phone to warmer tones, so it doesn’t mess with your sleep. You just need to swipe up to see the button. And you can schedule the times it works.

Again, be sure to focus on finding tools and tactics that work specifically for you. Sometimes, adults with ADHD fixate on what they can’t do. Instead, Smith encouraged readers to pay more attention on your strengths and positive traits. “Spend your time instead focused on what you can do about [your ADHD], how you can move forward, and employ strategies for success.” Which is probably the greatest ADHD tip of all.

Suzanne Kane <![CDATA[15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness]]> 2017-10-06T16:13:36Z 2017-10-08T14:06:20Z ]]> Life is so busy, hectic and filled with challenges. There are also myriad opportunities for personal enrichment, satisfaction, friendship, love, finding purpose and doing good for others. Still, while the desire for and pursuit of happiness can sometimes seem elusive or fleeting, there are effective ways to increase your happiness.

1. Find joy in the little things.

For most people, life consists of an accumulation of small moments. There are, of course, momentous events that occur in a person’s life that can precipitate a dramatic shift, changing direction, embarking on a new path. Still, everyday life goes on, populated with small, seemingly inconsequential moments. It is in the little things that you can find your joy and boost feelings of happiness. When you allow yourself to be joyful, it’s easier to find joy. While that may sound too good to be true, it works. Feel the deliciousness of descending into cool water in a lake on a hot day. Savor the aroma and taste of a favorite meal and enjoy the presence of loving family. These are the little things that are too often taken for granted, yet they are great contributors to happiness.

2. Start each day with a smile.

This is more than a simple suggestion. It’s backed by science. When you smile, you not only trigger smile muscles in others, according to research, you also benefit. Smiling activates neural brain circuits associated with well-being and happiness. It also feels good to smile, especially when you do it regularly.

3. Connect with others.

The power of social connection to boost happiness and well-being is another area explored by researchers. The construct of time, for example, motivates people to choose being with family and friends more than working – behaviors associated with greater happiness. Other research found that happiness is a “collective phenomenon,” with people’s happiness dependent on the happiness of those with whom they connect.

4. Do what you’re most passionate about.

If you get swept up in what you do for a living, barely noticing the passage of time, or can’t wait to get to your job or do things with your children or participate in an activity with friends, you’re engaging in what you find most passionate. Pursuing your passions is highly conducive to increased happiness and, contrary to a mistaken notion that to do so is selfish, when you do what you’re most passionate about, you’re helping develop your potential, broadening your horizons and contributing to higher self-esteem and overall well-being.

5. Reflect on your blessings and be grateful.

Everyone has something in their life to be grateful for. Most of us have many, many blessings. A simple ritual of daily reflection is enough to center in on them and allows us to take a few moments to express personal gratitude for all that we have been given in life. Good health, loving family, satisfying relationships, an enjoyable career – the list is endless and highly personal. There’s also a scientific basis for the statement that gratitude helps increase happiness, demonstrating that it also helps protect you from negativity, stress, depression, and anxiety.

6. Choose to be positive and see the best in every situation.

A positive attitude is scientifically proven to increase happiness and well-being. How can you develop a positive attitude and learn to see the best in everything? It does take practice and a willingness to confront your fears and reject their power to control you. If you’ve always seen life as a glass half-empty proposition, turn that assumption around and strive to see situations as a glass half-full. Other research has found that positive emotions can even counteract the effects of adversity.

7. Take steps to enrich your life.

Seeking knowledge, exploring unknown areas, pushing yourself to go beyond your current skill set or experience, striving to learn something new — these are steps each of us can take to not only enrich our life but also maximize personal joy and happiness.

8. Create goals and plans to achieve what you want most.

If you expect or desire to achieve a certain standard of living, aspire to earn a college degree, receive a promotion, buy a house, marry and have children or any other goal you find meaningful and purposeful, you must identify the goal first and then create action plans to help you achieve what you want.

9. Live in the moment.

Worry about the past or anxiety over the future are both counterproductive and a waste of time. Instead, to add to your happiness quotient, change your mindset so that you live in the present. Another way of saying this is to be present. When you focus on now, this moment, you are more aware of your surroundings, your breath, how you feel, what’s going on with your loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, other drivers and everything in your immediate environment. You’re alive and fully aware of it. Being present is a proactive way to increase your happiness and something anyone can do.

10. Be good to yourself.

Overeating, drinking too much, staying up all hours and other bad habits aren’t good for you physically or mentally. Instead, embark on a lifestyle that includes healthy behaviors: eat nutritious foods, cut down or cut out alcoholic intake, get sufficient and restful sleep, hydrate well, exercise regularly and take frequent breaks so that you give yourself breathing time between tasks. You’ll be healthier and happier because of being good to yourself.

11. Ask for help when you need it.

There are times when you know you’re overwhelmed and will not be able to finish what you started. In addition, you may run into unexpected problems or difficulties while you’re working at a task or pursuing a goal and don’t know what to do about it. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. In fact, it’s a sign of good mental health and a positive attitude that you’re comfortable doing so. Another person may have a suggestion that works or discussing what’s perplexing you may stimulate a solution you hadn’t realized before. Similarly, if you’re bogged down with financial problems, asking for assistance to overcome them will help you figure out a path to get past this difficulty. Asking for help allows you to get unstuck and move ahead toward your goals.

12. Let go of sadness and disappointment.

Why torment yourself with thoughts of how sad you are or how disappointed you feel because you didn’t immediately succeed in a task or goal, lost a friend or loved one, can’t pay your bills or don’t see a clear path to your future? Stewing in sadness and disappointment will only further erode your feelings of self-worth and chip away at your self-esteem, not to mention cause your happiness to plummet. Let go of those toxic feelings. Seek professional counseling if the problem worsens or doesn’t go away after two weeks. Remember, you deserve to be happy. To get there, ditch negative emotions and replace them with more uplifting ones.

13. Practice mindfulness.

There are many forms of mindfulness and meditation, sometimes called mindfulness meditation. Whichever style you prefer, when you find one that fits, make regular use of it. One example is loving kindness meditation — opening hearts to positive emotions. Research shows that it not only increases positive emotions, but also personal resources and well-being. This type of meditation has many other benefits, including increasing social connectedness.

14. Walk in nature.

The benefits of getting outside and walking in nature have long been documented as easy, convenient ways to increase happiness. For one thing, the physical act of exercise releases endorphins in your brain that elevate mood and make you feel better. Walking in nature also highlights other aspects of joyful, happy living such as a greater appreciation of natural beauty, thankfulness that you’re alive and healthy enough to be physically active, helping to tone your body and improve cardiovascular, lung and other vital bodily functions.

15. Laugh, and make time for play.

It’s almost impossible to see someone else laugh and not be affected by it. Indeed, laughter is not only contagious, it also constitutes a big part of play.  What is playing? It is the act of doing what gives you pleasure, engaging in discovery, letting your creativity flow. Laughter can reduce levels of stress and inflammation and benefit heart functioning.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[ADHD and Adults: Systems, Strategies and Shortcuts that Foster Success]]> 2017-10-06T16:12:20Z 2017-10-07T13:00:06Z ]]> For individuals with ADHD, the foundation for success is accepting your ADHD. This includes accepting that your brain is wired differently—not defectively, said Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and clinical psychologist who specializes in ADHD.

“The truth is, adults with ADHD are creative, driven, intuitive, resourceful and are capable of great success,” said Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, a social worker, therapeutic arts facilitator and life coach who specializes in ADHD and helps her clients use their strengths to overcome challenges and discover true fulfillment in their lives.

The key is to incorporate systems, strategies and shortcuts into your life. Many of Olivardia’s patients worry that using a shortcut is akin to cheating or admitting that they’re not as smart or strong or motivated as people without ADHD. “I remind them that the term ‘shortcut’ in regards to ADHD means that you are merely diminishing the unnecessary executive fuel that is burned by virtue of having ADHD…Shortcuts are simply strategic ways of doing things in the most efficient way possible.”

He used the example of a cell phone and landline. Even though they’re both phones, we don’t assume that they work the same way. They also come with different manuals. “Different brains require different strategies for success.” As such, below you’ll find a list of 12 tools and techniques to help you thrive and cultivate success—whatever that means for you.

Know yourself.
Olivardia, who also has ADHD, exercises after work, sometimes at 10 p.m. He changes into his workout clothes at his office before leaving for the gym. Because if he doesn’t change, even with good intentions, he drives right by the gym and goes home. Already wearing his exercise clothes is a concrete, external cue, a loud, clear-cut message to his brain that it’s time to work out. “Yes, most people leave work and change into their gym clothes in the gym locker room. I know myself too well and how my ADHD and motivation work.”

ADHD coach Aaron Smith regularly forgets to eat. Which is why he starts the day with a power smoothie. It’s filled with brain-boosting ingredients, such as bananas, berries, spinach, vegetable-based protein powder, almond butter and almond milk.

How does your motivation function? What system, strategy or shortcut might help you take action or incorporate an activity you enjoy?

Have a landing zone and launching pad. A landing zone includes important things, such as: a bowl for keys, your wallet and a phone; a basket for incoming mail; and a spot for your bag, said Debra Michaud, M.A., an organizer and ADHD coach who specializes in working with adults struggling with chronic disorganization. A launching pad includes anything that needs to leave the house, she said, such as: bills, birthday cards, donations and store returns.

Eat dessert first. You’ve probably heard the advice “eat your frog,” meaning do the worst task on your list first to get it out of the way. But this doesn’t work for people with ADHD. Instead of starting with a task you’re dreading, pick a task that’s enjoyable or fun, said van Rikxoort. “This will help jump-start your brain and boost your mood, which will set you up for success when you take on those not-so-preferred tasks.”

Start a success journal. “People with ADHD often have difficulty remembering past successes due to problems with working memory,” van Rikxoort said. Having a success journal helps you remember your victories—and recall the tools and tips you used to achieve them. “It’s a great resource to have on hand that you can refer to any time you’re faced with a challenging situation and need help deciding how to tackle it,” she said.

Organize your home like a department store. That is, have specific zones for similar items, such as hardware, memorabilia and holiday items. “You can zone by room and then within the room,” Michaud said. For instance, have a baking zone in your kitchen, where you include all your baking supplies, she said. Have a hot beverage zone that includes your kettle, coffee maker, mugs, tea strainer and different types of coffee and teas.

It’s also helpful to zone by how often you use items. “When organizing I always divide a home in terms of highest and lowest ‘value’ of real estate—in other words, easy access and high traffic areas are ‘high value’ areas and should only store frequently used items,” Michaud said. For instance, you wouldn’t store the waffle maker you use twice a year with your daily used pots and pans, she said. You’d store it in the hard-to-reach cabinet.

File by category. Some people think they need to file paperwork alphabetically, but our brains don’t think this way. Michaud suggested using hanging files with plastic tabs, along with a different file color for each category. Your categories might include: medical, finance and work.

Use hooks. According to Michaud, “Hooks are your best friend.” Wherever you tend to throw items—clothes, backpacks, keys—on the floor, put several large hooks. Plus, you can put hooks on different levels inside your closet for more storage, and inside cabinet doors, she said.

Follow the “Rule of 3.” “Many people with ADHD struggle with time insensitivity and often underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a task,” van Rikxoort said. She suggested tripling the amount of time you think a task will take. In other words, if you think a task will take 10 minutes, give yourself 30 minutes, she said.

Keep shortcuts shiny. Strategies can get old and become less effective. Which is why van Rikxoort suggested to “shine it up.” Instead of doing an overhaul, make a small shift. She shared this example: If writing things down is getting boring, buy a new notebook or planner. “Some people will turn their notebooks and write in a different direction or use different colored pens.” Use your creativity to help you shake things up.

Do a quick pick-up. “Set a recurring alarm every night before bed where the whole family picks up for 5 minutes,” Michaud said. This helps you finish up fast tasks and prevent piles resembling the leaning tower of Pisa.

Make tasks fun. “The mere threat of boredom is enough to completely shut down a person with ADHD and that’s why it is so important to look for ways to make daily tasks enjoyable,” van Rikxoort said. Listen to music and dance as you clean the house. Make sorting through old paperwork into a timed game. Dress up to do certain tasks.

According to Smith, listen to an audiobook or podcast while washing dishes; watch your favorite TV show while folding laundry; or listen to classical music as you read.

Have a sense of humor. “It is important to have an assertive sense of humor with ADHD,” Olivardia said. “I am the first to agree and laugh with anyone who might think that some things I do are strange and different. I respond, ‘Hey, as long as I am not hurting myself or anyone else and it gets me to where I want to go, I’m happy.’”

ADHD looks different in every person. Which means that different tools and techniques help different people. “The key to success is identifying how ADHD is showing up in your life and developing personal strategies that work with your unique strengths and abilities, rather than against them,” van Rikxoort said.

Olivardia encouraged readers to have fun brainstorming strategies and shortcuts; to talk to others with ADHD; and to attend the CHADD conference, where you can share your favorite strategies.

Claire Nana <![CDATA[Book Review: Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love]]> 2017-09-30T12:22:07Z 2017-10-06T15:04:01Z ]]> At the heart of all advice about how to have better relationships, resolve conflict, improve connection, and enhance intimacy is the idea of simply learning to accept others for who they are. Acceptance is, after all, the highest form of love.

In her new book, Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love, Andrea Miller, the founder and CEO of YourTango makes the compelling case that acceptance isn’t just good for our relationships — it’s also good for us.

Although Miller founded an organization whose mission is to help people love better and connect more meaningfully, her own personal story is a testament to the power of radical acceptance. Soon after falling instantly in love with her then boyfriend Sanjay, she found herself in argument after heated argument with him, feeling as though she simply couldn’t find a way to make the relationship work.

“We had chemistry galore and were committed to each other, yet we sustained a lot of frustration that never seemed to get resolved,” writes Miller.

Then, in desperation, she consults a trusted friend who says to her, “Andrea, just love him.”

With those words, everything changed.

“Upon deciding to ‘just love him,’ I was finally really making a commitment to him and to our relationship,” writes Miller.

As a result, she not only decided to found YourTango, but also an idea she calls “radical acceptance.”

Radical acceptance goes beyond simply loving without judgement. Rather, it is about replacing that judgement with compassion and empathy.

“To radically accept someone means: I love you right here, right now. I have your back, no matter what. I know your flaws, failures and shortcomings and I still love you. I will not resent or resist them. Instead, I will extend tenderness to them,” writes Miller.

The shift, however, doesn’t occur in the other person – it occurs within the self. Miller quotes David Bell:

“The opponent is not the person with whom you are in a relationship. The opponent is your reaction to this person and what arises in the relationship.”

Radical acceptance requires radical giving, Miller says, and a shift from expecting someone else to make you happy to thinking more about what you have to offer to your partner.

And for those who may be unknowingly sabotaging their own efforts, Miller asks, “When it comes to love, what are you afraid of? When you reflect on life, what kind of people have you been attracting? What’s at your core? What is your approach to dating?”

Miller says that many people also refuse to pay the price of admission for happy lasting love. There is no love that passes an endless test of deal-breakers, cures all of the ailments in life, or doesn’t require some amount of settling.

And while it’s okay to feel uncertain, we can’t commit partially to someone. Because, radical acceptance, and the commitment it brings, is a binary concept. We must begin by making the choice to either just love someone, or just dump them.

“There is enormous power in true commitment and you are making a decision to commit. Being committed fundamentally changes your energy; it changes your consciousness and aligns how you think and behave accordingly,” writes Miller.

With radical acceptance, we also must learn to step outside our own emotional bubble and recognize the neurological cascade we bring upon ourselves every time we experience stress. Whether we bring it upon ourselves through negative thoughts about our partner, or we feel it thrust onto us, stress is our responsibility, and it cannot be used as an excuse for poor behavior.

When we can remove our masks, allow ourselves to be fully seen, and acknowledge that not everyone sees the world as we do, we can learn to communicate radically and as we are biologically intended to. Miller quotes Stephen Porges, who developed the polyvagal theory:

“The goal of mammals – and as good spouses – is to interact in a way that regulates each other’s physiology.”

And while loving even the seemingly unlovable parts of our partners may seem impossible, Miller cites the work of Helen Fisher who showed that the most loving, long-term couples held “positive illusions” of their partners which allowed them to see them in their best light, identify, and empathize with them, even when tensions arise.

Where ethics might call upon the golden rule – treat others as you want to be treated – love requires the platinum rule – love others as they want to be loved. By thinking about what most communicates love to our partners, and finding our way to let go of the hurt and resistance that hinder us, we become more empowered in the process. While we say, “I love you,” the platinum rule calls upon us to prove it.

Full of touching stories, illuminating research, and sage wisdom, Miller’s book is an original take on love – that fully loving someone is not just good for them, it is good for us.

Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love
Andrea Miller
Atria Books (2017)
289 Pages