By: Austin Perlmutter M.D. | The Modern Brain
"There’s just no way around it: our brain health is about the most valuable thing we own. When our brains are unhealthy, we can’t think straight. Our mental health is poor. We simply can’t enjoy life as well. With this in mind, finding ways to prioritize brain health every day is vital. So what are some of the most scientifically sound, easy ways to make sure you’re helping care for your brain? Here are three of the best:
1. Prioritize Good Sleep
Why it’s key: You’ve probably heard people diminish the importance of sleep by saying things like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But if you don’t prioritize sleep, you’re doing your body and especially your brain a great disservice. Pick just about any disease and you’ll find that it’s more prevalent or more severe in people who don’t get good sleep. For example, we now know that people with Alzheimer’s tend to have issues sleeping. Poor sleep may also increase the risk of developing dementia. When it comes to mental health, these same trends hold. Sleep issues are very common in people with mental health issues, and are also thought to increase one’s risk for developing these conditions.
Tips for better sleep: Many are seeking quick fixes for sleep issues, especially insomnia. But while some people may benefit from short-term use of drugs, there are mounting concerns about the side effects and efficacy of prescription sleep aids. To this end, finding non-pharmaceutical methods of promoting healthy sleep are likely a better long-term solution for most people. Simple strategies to facilitate better sleep include winding down with a regular routine that minimizes blue light/screen exposure in the hours before bed. Also, consider sleeping with your room a bit cooler, as this may promote better sleep. Try cutting out caffeine after 2 p.m. (or earlier) and consider avoiding alcohol before bed, as this throws off sleep quality. Lastly, consider speaking to your physician about an evaluation for sleep apnea, especially if you are male, overweight, or someone who snores. Sleep apnea is a very common condition that majorly compromises sleep quality and is often missed.
2. Move Your Body
Why it’s key: Study after study shows that regular exercise is linked to better brain health. People who move more tend to think better and have better mental health. In fact, a recent review in JAMA showed that exercise may act as an antidepressant. So why is exercise such a brain booster? It may lower inflammation (which damages brain function), increase molecules like BDNF (which promotes healthier brain function and growth of new brain cells), and it does great things for our blood sugar (higher blood sugar may damage brain health).
Tips for physical activity: You don’t need to train for a marathon or become a professional athlete to get the brain benefits of exercise. This is all about sustainability, and if you hate or get injured when you’re exercising, it’s unlikely you’ll stick to it. Instead, look for ways to make physical activity enjoyable. A walk with a friend, some yoga, lifting some weights, or going for a swim—it’s all great stuff. The best exercise is the one you enjoy because it’s what you’re most likely to keep doing. So, find something you can look forward to.
3. Clean Up Your Diet
Why it’s key: The foods you eat are the literal building blocks for your brain. Food is also what turns into neurotransmitters. Your diet significantly influences your immune and endocrine (hormone) systems that play key roles in your brain health. Food is also one of the best opportunities we have to influence our health on a day-to-day basis because we absolutely have to eat, but we get to choose whether that food is a vote for a healthier or a less healthy brain."
By: Alison Ledgerwood | TEDxUCDavis
"Alison Ledgerwood joined the Department of Psychology at UC Davis in 2008 after completing her PhD in social psychology at New York University. She is interested in understanding how people think, and how they can think better. Her research, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, investigates how certain ways of thinking about an issue tend to stick in people's heads. Her classes on social psychology focus on understanding the way people think and behave in social situations, and how to harness that knowledge to potentially improve the social world in which we all live."
By: Abby Lindquist
"Today I'm sharing all of my tips and tricks for getting through those first few weeks with newborn baby. These are the things I wish I knew when I had my first baby. I hope they are helpful for you! Please give this video a thumbs up and subscribe if you aren't already! Thanks so much for watching!"
Tiffiny Hall | TEDxDocklands | March 15, 2019
"Tiffiny Hall is founder of TIFFXO.com and author of nine books. She is passionate about helping women feel confident and strong. Tiffiny explores the pressures placed on women to bounce back and lose weight after they give birth and shares her experiences in dealing with the bounce back culture after she had a baby. Speaking on the importance of mind over matter during the fourth trimester, Tiffiny shares her tips to help women gradually return to fitness after pregnancy and birth. Celebrity trainer, founder of lifestyle program TIFFXO.com, author, podcaster and martial arts expert, Logie nominated Tiffiny Hall has many titles tucked under her 6th Dan Taekwondo black belt.
Tiffiny Hall is a one-woman fitness business, with over 20 years’ experience as a personal trainer and coach. Expert in HIIT and HIRT, she rose to prominence on TV in many roles from a Gladiator on Gladiators to a trainer on The Biggest Loser Australia and is now transforming devotees – from athletes to new mums – via her very successful health and fitness app TIFFXO.com. She is a mum, mentor and magnate. One of the most qualified martial artists in the world for her age, she’s a 6th Dan Taekwondo black belt and has mixed martial arts workout plans that will kick your butt in the best possible way. She is the Director of Training for the largest global fitness app in the world. A role that has seen her travel the world & work with the most famous and prestigious experts in the wellness space This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx"
By: Auburn Harrison | TEDxUniversity of Nevada
"It's the most common complication of childbirth, yet PPD is a condition clouded with stigma, shame and guilt for mothers who experience it. According to Postpartum Support International, 15% of women suffer from postpartum depression, yet women are forced to suffer in silence and shame. Based on a personal experience with an extremely severe case of postpartum depression, anxiety and psychosis, Nevada-based nonprofit executive, Auburn Harrison, paints a heartbreaking and harrowing picture of why our society's silence on the topic is hurting mothers. Auburn Harrison serves as a nonprofit executive director for nonprofit dropout prevention program for at-risk youth, Communities In Schools of Western Nevada. Her organization provides basic needs and case management to local students living in poverty, including wraparound student support services such as mentoring, tutoring and resources to help students stay in school, graduate and achieve life success. Auburn has been involved in the Northern Nevada non-profit and philanthropic and nonprofit community for over a decade. Auburn spent five years as an on-air television reporter at at KOLO 8 News Now, and five more years as an enlisted journalist in the US Navy. She holds a master's degree in Writing from University of Nevada, Reno. In 2019, Auburn was named one of the Top Twenty Young Professionals Under 40 by the Reno Tahoe Young Professionals Network. Auburn lives in Reno with her husband and three little boys. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx"
By: CityLine | January 9, 2019
"There is science behind prioritizing your happiness, moms! Dr. Karyn Gordon proves that silencing mommy guilt is important to your family's well-being."
By: TedX Talks | February 4, 2019
"Choosing to marry and share your life with someone is one of the most important decisions you can make in life. But with divorce rates approaching fifty percent in some parts of the world, it's clear we could use some help picking a partner. In an actionable, eye-opening talk, psychiatrist George Blair-West shares three keys to preventing divorce -- and spotting potential problems while you're still dating."
"Check out more TED Talks: http://www.ted.com The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more."
By: TedX Talks | May 2, 2018
"Albert Hobohm shares life-altering, personal and professional ideas on how to take charge of your reality. Through alarming statistics and hands-on solutions, Hobohm shows us our critical situation as a species and how to start taking control over our mental operating systems."
"Albert Hobohm is a lecturer and professional operating at the crossing between psychology and business. He has an academic background from The Royal Institute of Technology as well as Stanford University. He has also built an orphanage and lived with Buddhist monks."
By: Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. | March 19, 2022
"Do you and your partner ever spend time deliberately talking about the “good old days” when you first started seeing each other? How about the high points in your relationship’s history, such as a particularly romantic getaway or an action-packed vacation? If you’re not engaging in these conversations on a regular basis, new research suggests you might want to give it a try.
According to the University of Siegen’s Mohammad Reza Majzoobi and Simon Forstmeier (2022), “Memories couples have about their ongoing marital relationship appear to be one of the decisive interpersonal variables in their close relationship” (p. 8). Their study delved into the existing published literature to understand just how decisive these old memories could be in helping partners legally committed to each other become and stay close throughout the course of their time together.
How Can Couple Memories Help Improve a Long-Term Relationship?
When understanding the role of memory in your own mental health and well-being, it might strike you that aside from helping you function better in the world, your recall of your past life helps stitch together the various events and experiences that shape who you are today. As the HBO Max series “The Tourist” illustrates (with an amnesiac main character), people without long-term memory lose all sense of their identity. Whether accurate or not, your memory of who you were forms the basis for your awareness now of who you are.
Indeed, in the words of the German authors, “Just as memory serves as the knowledge database of the self, memories couples have about their close relationship are also expected to operate as their relational identity database” (p. 8). When you are your partner reminiscence about the early days of your relationship, you’re digging into that “database” in a way that can promote the intertwining of your identities as individuals but, more importantly, as a couple.
It's possible, of course, that relationship memories can become sources of tension and disagreement. What if your memories of a past shared experience differ not only in the details but also in their emotional associations?
That adventurous vacation may have been harrowing for you but exciting and deeply fulfilling for your partner. You might not even agree on when you took the vacation or where you went. Such divergence could either be a symptom of problems you and your partner have in your relationship now, or could start a snowballing process as each of you starts to question how well you understand each other.
Relationship Defining Memories and Their Impact on Couples
As the term implies, a “Relationship-Defining Memory (RDM)” has the quality of being highly specific, significant, and closely connected to emotions. That awful vacation (from your point of view) might not meet those standards, so it could remain a chronic sore spot unless, or until, it’s thrown into the back of your relational database.
The University of Siegen researchers used the technique of meta-analysis (looking at results of previously-published research) to identify, from a pool of 285 studies, a final set of 19 considered acceptable in terms of the study topic, the nature of the sample, and coverage of such topics as autobiographical memory or reminiscence in connection with either positive outcomes of satisfaction or distress. Because the authors chose married heterosexual couples only (for the sake of uniformity among studies), this is something to consider when you interpret the findings.
Measuring marital outcomes was a relatively straightforward process for the studies included in the meta-analysis but the qualities used to define an RDM required more imagination. Think about your own RDM’s. If they involve the first time you met, what words would you use to describe them? And what would those words have to be in order to count as a “match” to your partner’s recall of the same event (or perhaps even a different event altogether)?"
By: Roxy Zarrabi Psy.D. | March 9, 2022
"Have you ever looked back at a previous relationship and wondered, “What was I thinking?” It may feel surprising to look back and realize how unhealthy a relationship was and wonder how you endured it for as long as you did. That’s why hindsight is 20/20.Perhaps you haven’t been in an unhealthy relationship yourself, but you’ve wondered why a friend or family member stays in a relationship that is clearly making them unhappy. Similar to a smudged windshield, it can be tough to see what’s right in front of you until the gunk is wiped away.
Often, it’s not a lack of awareness that keeps people stuck in unhealthy relationships; deep down inside there is a voice calling for their attention urging them to face the truth but it’s being buried due to underlying fears. If you’re having difficulty letting go of an unhealthy relationship, consider whether any of the following reasons are playing a role:
1. You fear being alone and assume being with anyone is better than being alone.
For many, the fear of being alone, and low self-worth, are powerful motivators for remaining in relationships past their expiration date. However, when you’re in a relationship with someone with whom you’re not compatible, you will often feel alone because you’re not being loved and cared for in a way that is aligned with your needs.
2. The relationship is activating an attachment wound, so letting go feels like a significant threat to you and feels impossible (even though it isn’t).
Adults raised by an inconsistent caregiver or whose emotional needs were not met during a crucial stage of development are more likely to be drawn to a partner with similar qualities simply because it feels so familiar — as if they’ve known the person “forever.”
If you learned early on to associate love with high conflict, volatility, or inconsistency, there may be a part of you subconsciously holding onto hope that maybe this time, things will be different. As a result, letting go of this type of relationship can feel like a threat to your attachment system because it’s forcing you to let go of this fantasy which can bring up a lot of resistance and anxiety. People who have an anxious attachment style may be more susceptible to having a difficult time letting go of an unhealthy relationship.
3. You’ve already invested a significant amount of time and energy in this relationship and fear starting over.
The sunk-cost fallacy refers to the phenomenon in which someone is hesitant to quit something they’ve started because they’ve already spent a significant amount of time and energy on it, despite it being in their best interest to change course.
The sunk-cost fallacy may be playing a role in your difficulty letting go of an unhealthy relationship if you’ve already spent a significant amount of time and energy on it and a part of you is pushing to see it through due to the fear of starting all over again."
By: Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS | February 19, 2022
"Children who experience trauma and dysfunction in their household often struggle to learn the same boundaries and behaviors that so many others seem to take for granted.
As a child is growing and developing, they look to their caregivers as examples of how to interact with the world around them. If those caregivers behave in dysfunctional or unhealthy ways, chances are high that children will learn to mimic these same unhealthy behaviors, even if unintended. “For many, the effects of abuse manifest in dysfunctional interpersonal relationships as the result of attachment disruptions at pivotal points of childhood development.” (Kvarnstrom, 2018)
Going back to childhood and adolescence usually sheds some light on adult behavior. The ways in which our caregivers interact with us, as well as each other, shape our view of the world and those around us. This will, in turn, affect three fundamental structures: our sense of self, the way we communicate, and how we form relationships. Unless we do the work to develop more self-awareness of our behaviors, we will usually repeat these same patterns into adulthood.
Following are 10 of the ways that childhood trauma manifests in adult relationships:
1. Fears of abandonment. Children who were neglected or abandoned by a caregiver often struggle with fears of abandonment long into adulthood, even if they are unaware of these fears on the surface level. While the underlying fear is that the partner will eventually leave, these thoughts often reveal themselves in everyday situations such as getting scared when a partner goes out by themselves, or being unable to self soothe if a partner leaves the room during an argument. This fear is also often manifested as jealousy, or in extreme cases, possessiveness.
2. Getting irritable or easily annoyed with others. When we grow up in environments where we are frequently criticized, or witness others being criticized, we learn that this is a natural way to express our displeasure in relationships. We learn that our imperfections and quirks are intolerable, and project that intolerance onto our partners or others around us.
3. Needing a lot of space or time to yourself. Growing up in a chaotic or unpredictable environment creates a lot of stress, and often leaves children’s central nervous system in a constant state of hypervigilance. Then they become adults who need a lot of time to themselves in order to calm these symptoms of anxiety, nervousness, and fear. Staying home, where you can control your surroundings, feels safer and allows you to relax. In extreme cases, some adults even have traits of or meet criteria for social anxiety or even agoraphobia.
4. Unequal financial and household responsibilities. Sometimes this can look like a reluctance to rely on a partner at all due to fears of depending on another person. Other times it takes the form of taking complete financial and/or household responsibility in a partnership, or fully taking care of the other person to the point where you are taken advantage of. The opposite — relying too much on them to the point where they take care of you — is also a result of unmet childhood needs.
5. Settling and staying in a relationship much longer than its expiration date. When we grow up in unstable environments, with caregivers who struggle with drug addiction, mental illness, or even illness or death, children often develop a sense of guilt that comes from wanting to end a relationship before we have been able to "fix" the other person. Staying with someone who is not a good fit for us sometimes feels safer than being alone."
By: Michael J. Breus Ph.D. | February 25, 2022
"There’s so much we don’t know and can’t control about what will happen over the next weeks and months. Let’s focus today on what we can control, and some simple, effective steps we can take to protect our sleep and maintain the physical and emotional energy we need to weather a difficult season.
Right now, you might be facing a tough, uncertain winter. Here are four realistic, flexible—and, most important, highly effective—steps you can take to sleep well and maintain your energy during another difficult Covid season.
Let your sleep routine help protect your emotional energy
How many times have you heard me say this: "Consistency is the foundation of a healthy sleep routine." The more regular your sleep schedule, you’ll fall asleep more easily and rest more soundly over the night. You’ll be sharper and have more energy throughout the day. And you’ll strengthen the very circadian rhythms that keep your sleep-wake schedule on track and keep your body functioning at its best.
Don’t overlook your sleep routine as a powerful mood protector. The consistency of your sleep has a tremendous impact on your mood. Sleeping on a regular schedule that’s aligned with your chronotype can help you stay positive, grounded, and emotionally healthy through challenging times like the one we’re in.
I’ve written in-depth about some of the latest research on how sleep routines can affect mood and emotional health. Here are some key takeaways:
Don’t forget, winter itself can be challenging for sleep routines. The short days and long nights of the season increase daily melatonin production, which makes us feel more tired and sluggish. Hormones produced during daylight hours, including serotonin, decrease, with less of this sleep-and-mood-boosting hormone produced during the dark winter months. All the more reason to double-down on the consistency of your sleep schedule over the next few months.
Here’s how you can focus on your home sleep environment to enhance your resting energy:
Keep bedrooms clean.
I get it—the last thing you probably want to do right now is clean your bedroom. But it is a simple, tangible way to have an immediate and direct impact on how well you and your family sleep this winter. Keeping bedrooms free of dirt, dust, germs, and debris helps avoid irritating allergies that interfere with nightly rest. If you and your family don’t have allergies, a clean bedroom will still protect you from sleep-disruptive irritations to the skin and help you breathe better while you rest.
Maintain a sleep-friendly indoor climate.
We are biologically hard-wired to lower core body temperature as part of progressing toward sleep. Keeping things too warm in your bedroom—and in the microclimate of your bed itself–can interfere with that important drop in body temperature, and keep you awake.
Lift up your eating energy (and supercharge your mental focus) with intermittent fasting.
Why is now the time to consider a shift to intermittent fasting? It will boost your mental and physical energy, keep your immune system primed to fight illness, strengthen circadian rhythms that have a major influence over your sleep and your mood. Plus, it’s an excellent aid in maintaining a healthy weight."
5 Secrets to Living Happily Ever After | By Susan Seliger
"We've all read the statistics: Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Are the lucky couples who continue to love and lust and live in relative harmony just that -- people whom the fates have blessed? Over Cupid's dead body! Love isn't a present that gets handed to you; it's a special kind of learned behavior. WebMD consulted the marriage and relationship experts to learn the best advice for a good marriage - five secrets to long-lasting love.
"We're born with the capacity to have a happy marriage, but we still have to work to develop it," says Howard Markham, PhD, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver and co-author of Fighting for Your Marriage. "Having a good marriage takes education," Markham says. "We have to unlearn some bad habits and acquire other good ones.
Other experts WebMD consulted agree. The couples who remain close and content are the pioneer-spirited among us who share the same secret formula: When problems crop up, they don't give up. They use the following five basic pieces of advice for a good marriage that can help every couple live (more) happily ever after.
1. Listen Up!
"Everybody has the need to be listened to and fully understood," says Jack Rosenblum, PhD, co-founder (with his wife of 29 years) of "Loveworks" couples' workshops and co-author of Five Secrets of Marriage from the Heart. You need to make your partner feel heard, even if that means pushing aside some anxiety or sitting on your hands rather than offering advice when your partner needs to talk. Sometimes "mirroring," or simply repeating what your spouse has said, is enough to let him or her know that you've been listening. For example, say something like, "I understand you're upset because I didn't take out the trash." Or "I hear that you want to talk about what happened at the office today." Provide evidence that you're paying attention to your partner's concerns.
2. Set aside regular couple time.
"Early on in a relationship couples talk as friends, they do fun things," says Markham. "But over time, those ways of connecting change." Work, family, financial woes, all have a way of overtaking daily life and eroding the sense of fun that brought you two together in the first place. Bring the fun back - even if you have to schedule it in the calendar once every week. Sharing a physical activity, like a bike ride or a walk around the block, is especially good for lifting your spirits along with your heart rate. Activities like going out for an intimate dinner, staying at home and playing music from your college days, or watching a favorite movie (will help you both remember why you chose each other. If cash is in short supply, trade off babysitting with a friend and plan a picnic in the park. There are 168 hours in a week: make a commitment to devote at least two of those hours to your marriage every week.
3. Don't throw things.
Of course, you and your partner are not going to agree about everything. But in expressing disagreement to your partner, playground rules apply -- no insults, name calling, or throwing things. "If you disagree, do it in a civil way," says Jack Rosenblum. "Don't make the other person wrong, don't say he's stupid. Instead, say, 'You think we ought to do this. I have another thought about it.'" If your disagreement seems to be escalating, call a mutually agreed upon time-out, and make a plan to continue the discussion after a cooling-off period. Keeping things on a calm, even keel is better for your blood pressure and your marriage. When in doubt, follow Ogden Nash's sage advice for resolving conflicts:
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the marriage cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it,
Whenever you're right, shut up.
4. Turn up the heat.
"If your sex life is diminishing or you're not having sex as often as one partner in the relationship would like, then you have to make getting your intimate life back on track a priority," says Markham. "It's ironic that when we're wooing our partners, we make this tremendous effort, and after we get into a relationship, we put that on the back burner." Think about your partner as someone you want - and someone you want to entice to fall in love with you over and over again. "Pay attention to your grooming, be romantic, don't take your partner for granted," advises Markham. "Think about your mate as someone you want to end up in bed with at the end of the evening."
By: Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. Ph.D. | July 14, 2021
"Decisions are a part of life. You may need to choose the best vacation spot, job candidate, babysitter, or place to live. However, your most important decision may be identifying your best romantic partner. Relationships matter – a lot. They have implications for your health, your reactions to stress and even how you look at the world. How can you determine if your current partner is the best of the best? It’s hard to know what factors truly matter and what to ignore.
Gut Reactions Add Nuance
There are two general ways to make assessments: data and your gut feeling. As Malcolm Gladwell famously observed in his book Blink, snap judgments can have surprising accuracy. As a psychology professor myself, one example that always amazes me is that student assessments of a professor based on a 30-second silent video clip matches students’ evaluations based on the entire semester.
Relying on gut feelings isn’t perfect. But intuition is an important component of decisions, especially social ones. Clearly, people rely on instincts in a variety of situations, such as deciding which job to take, which daycare is best, and who to date. Trusting your own feelings is sometimes necessary because expert information is hard to access – published research articles are often locked behind paywalls, for example, and not typically written in a way that aids comprehension. And of course, the very nature of science and statistics is to focus on what is most typical in a population, not what’s best for any one individual.
Experts also aren’t perfect and research shows that people have a sense of when to value nonexpert opinions over experts. In fact, some experts admit to using intuition themselves: A study revealed that marriage therapists acknowledge using their intuition and consider it a valuable tool in clinical settings.
Is Your Relationship Hall of Fame Worthy?
Perhaps with the value of instinctive evaluation in mind, famous baseball statistician Bill James created the “Keltner List.” The list is a way to assess a baseball player’s Hall of Fame viability, and it's named for a seven-time All-Star with borderline qualifications. To be truly Hall-worthy, numbers may not tell the whole story; the judgment should be almost visceral. A true Hall of Famer would be clear based on a few key questions. While James is a statistician, his Keltner List is intentionally nonscientific. It’s a collection of 15 questions anyone can quickly answer to help guide an overall assessment of a player’s worthiness for the Hall. (Example: “Was he the best player on his team?”) The answers are not meant to provide a definitive conclusion, but rather to force a careful consideration of the most important information.
Back to relationships. A similar process can help you determine whether your current romantic partner is Hall-worthy for you. Inspired by the Keltner List, I’ve put together a list of 15 questions to highlight what matters most. Like James's list, my assessment is intentionally not scientific and has not been tested empirically (though that isn’t a bad idea for future research). That said, I consulted the existing research to ground each question in the science of what contributes to a healthy relationship. Note that this list isn’t about helping you pick the best Tinder date, hookup, or short-term fling. The questions focus on what matters for serious, long-term, sustainable love. To benefit from this exercise, you need to be honest. If you lie to yourself, you won’t gain any insight — or as computer scientists say, “garbage in, garbage out.”
A Keltner List for Relationships
Consider each question and answer truthfully with a simple yes or no:
BY KIRA M. NEWMAN | AUGUST 17, 2016
"Mothers-to-be don’t spend their entire 40 weeks of pregnancy glowing radiantly; there are also midnight worries, endless shopping lists, and swollen feet. Somewhere around 18 percent of women are depressed during pregnancy, and 21 percent have serious anxiety.
Research is starting to suggest that mindfulness could help. Not only does cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and surroundings seem to help pregnant women keep their stress down and their spirits up—benefits that are well-documented among other groups of people—it may also lead to healthier newborns with fewer developmental problems down the line.
The research is still in its infancy (pun intended), but researchers are hopeful that this low-cost, accessible, and positive practice could have transformational effects. Here are four benefits for pregnant women.
1. Mindfulness reduces stress
Jen, an entrepreneur friend of mine who recently had her first child, was put on bed rest and couldn’t even exercise to keep her stress down. “I had so much anxiety,” she recalls. “Meditation really helped me stay calm and sane.”
She isn’t alone. In a small pilot study in 2008, 31 women in the second half of their pregnancy participated in an eight-week mindfulness program called Mindful Motherhood, which included breathing meditation, body scan meditation, and hatha yoga. In two hours of class per week, participants also learned how to cultivate attention and awareness, particularly in relation to aspects of their pregnancy: the feeling of their belly, the aches and pains, and their anxiety about labor.
Compared with women waiting to enter the program, participants saw reductions in their reports of anxiety and negative feelings like distress, hostility, and shame. These were all women who had sought therapy or counseling for mood issues in the past, but the program seemed to be helping them avoid similar difficulties during a chaotic and transformative time of their lives.
A 2012 study of another eight-week mindfulness program found similar reductions in depression, stress, and anxiety compared with a control group, though only 19 pregnant women participated. In interviews, participants talked about learning to stop struggling and accept things as they are; they remembered to stop and breathe, and then take conscious action rather than acting out of anger or frustration.
“I’ve learned to take a step back and just breathe and think about what I’m going to say before I open my mouth,” one participant said.
These stress-busting and mood-lifting effects mirror those found in mindfulness programs for the general public, but can mindfulness help with the specific anxieties and fears that go along with pregnancy? Many pregnant women have a loop of worries that easily gets triggered: Will my baby be healthy? I’m scared of labor. Something doesn’t feel right—do I need to go to the doctor?
A 2014 study looked specifically at these feelings, called pregnancy anxiety. Forty-seven pregnant women in their first or second trimesters, who had particularly high stress or pregnancy anxiety, took a mindfulness class at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. For six weeks, they learned how to work with pain, negative emotions, and difficult social situations. Compared with a control group who read a pregnancy book, participants who took the class saw bigger decreases in their reports of pregnancy anxiety during the duration of the experiment.
Mindfulness, perhaps, gave them the tools to navigate complex emotions that wouldn’t budge, even in the face of the most reassuring reading material.
“It is inspiring to witness a mother with extreme fear of childbirth cancel an elective caesarian because she now feels confident enough in her own strength to go through the birthing process,” said one mindfulness teacher. “It is humbling to hear how the couple whose first baby died during labour were able to stay present during the birth of their second, observing their fear without getting lost in it.”
2. Mindfulness boosts positive feelings
Not all mindfulness involves meditation; you can also become more mindful by noticing the way moods and bodily sensations fluctuate throughout the day. This type of mindfulness can counter our tendency to be “mindless,” when we assume things will be the way we expect them to be—the way they were in the past—and we don’t notice new experiences. For example, pregnant women might expect pregnancy to be exhausting and painful, so they pay less attention to the happy and peaceful moments.
In a 2016 study, a small group of Israeli women in their second and third trimesters received a half-hour training in this type of mindfulness. Then, for two weeks, they wrote diary entries twice daily about how they felt physically and mentally, a way of helping them realize how much things change.
Compared with groups of women who simply read about other women’s positive and negative experiences during pregnancy, or did nothing specific at all, women in the mindfulness group saw greater increases in their reports of well-being and positive feelings like enthusiasm and determination across the duration of the exercise. Also, the more mindful they were after the experiment (as measured by questionnaire), the higher their well-being, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive feelings one month after the birth—a time when women need all the resources they can get.
Nurse-midwife Nancy Bardacke developed the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program after training in and teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a widely researched program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. MBCP takes principles from MBSR and applies them to pregnancy, teaching mindfulness practices alongside insights about labor and breastfeeding. It includes three hours of class per week for nine weeks, as well as a daylong silent retreat.
In a small 2010 pilot study, 27 women in their third trimester of pregnancy participated in the MBCP program with their partners. In addition to improvements in pregnancy anxiety and stress, participants also reported experiencing stronger and more frequent positive feelings—such as enjoyment, gratitude, and hope—after the program.
“I definitely am aware of trying to be in the moment and that each moment, good or bad, will pass,” said one participant. “When I got really worried about the birth, I would just breathe to stop my mind from going all sorts of bad places.”
3. Mindfulness may help prevent premature birth
Among pregnant women’s worries, the possibility of a premature birth looms large. “Preemies” (babies born before 37 weeks) are at risk of breathing problems, vision and hearing issues, and developmental delays. And mothers of preemies have high rates of anxiety, depression, and stress, which often go unacknowledged in the face of the baby’s needs.
Here, too, mindfulness may have a role to play. In a 2005 study of 335 pregnant women in Bangalore, India, half were assigned to practice yoga and meditation while the other half walked for an hour per day, starting in their second trimester and continuing until delivery. The yoga group, who took yoga classes for a week and then practiced at home, had fewer premature births and fewer babies with low birthweight.
Another indicator of newborn health is the Apgar score, usually measured minutes after birth, which takes into account the newborn’s complexion, pulse, reflexes, activity level, and respiration. In the 2016 Israeli study mentioned above, women’s reported levels of mindfulness after the experiment were linked to their babies’ Apgar scores, even after controlling for socioeconomic status.
One 2011 study found that a mindfulness program reduced premature births, but not birthweight or Apgar scores. Here, a group of 199 second-trimester pregnant women in Northern Thailand either got typical prenatal care or participated in a mindfulness program. Two hours a week for five weeks, the mindfulness group learned different meditations and how to cultivate awareness and acceptance of their thoughts and emotions. During and afterward, they were encouraged to meditate for over an hour daily across several different sessions. In the end, only six percent of women in the meditation group delivered their babies prematurely, compared with 16 percent in the care-as-usual group.
Could mindfulness help reduce premature births in women who are most at risk for them, including low-income and older women? That’s a question for future research to address."
By: American Pregnancy Association
"Loving your body image before pregnancy can help you get through the physical and emotional changes during pregnancy. Having a positive body image of yourself is not about what you look like, but how you feel about yourself. This is crucial in pregnancy since there will be body changes that you cannot control. It is also helpful to understand why your body is going through these changes.
According to Ann Douglas, author of The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby, “A woman who feels good about herself will celebrate the changes that her body experiences during pregnancy, look forward to the challenge of giving birth, and willingly accept the physical and emotional changes of the postpartum period.”
Loving Your Body When You Are Pregnant:
Knowing that your body’s changes are essential to your developing baby is reason enough to embrace these changes!
Understanding what your body is doing for your baby:
As soon as your egg is fertilized and implanted in your uterus, your body begins to go through changes. These changes are a result of your baby’s growth and development. Your baby has a fetal life-support system that consists of the placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic sac. The placenta produces hormones that are necessary to support a healthy pregnancy and baby.
These hormones help prepare your breasts for lactation and are responsible for many changes in your body. You will have an increase in blood circulation that is needed to support the placenta. This increase in blood is responsible for that wonderful “pregnancy glow” that you may have.
Your metabolism will increase, so you may have food cravings and the desire to eat more. Your body is requiring more nutrients to feed both you and your baby. Your uterus will enlarge and the amniotic sac will be filled with amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid is there to protect your baby from any bumps or falls.
Here are a few things you can do to love your body image during pregnancy:
Exercise during pregnancy can help you feel fit, strong, and sexy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women are encouraged to exercise at least 30 minutes a day throughout pregnancy, unless your health care provider instructs differently.
Before starting any exercise program, ALWAYS check with your health care provider. For more information on exercise throughout pregnancy, check out the Nutrition & Exercise section.
Treat yourself to a body massage or a makeover. Go shopping, take a warm bubble bath, or go for a walk outside. Focus on activities that make you feel healthy, and make the most of these wonderful 9 months!"
By: Rubin Khoddam Ph.D. | January 23, 2022
"Are you looking for some new techniques to strengthen your relationship? If you’re interested in integrative behavioral couples therapy (IBCT) but don’t seem to be able to fit it into your busy schedule, many couples are utilizing teletherapy as a simpler way to make time for their relationship. Scheduling a teletherapy session with an experienced therapist is convenient and can help you work through relationship issues, but why wait? Here are five tips to get started today.
1. Express Appreciation
Understanding what makes your partner feel the most appreciated is a step in the right direction. Over time, we may stop expressing appreciation in our relationships because what was once novel has become routine. Maybe resentments have built up over the years, or we assume our significant other already knows how we feel about them. But when we notice and appreciate the little things, people often go out of their way to be even more thoughtful. This doesn’t require big gestures, although it can. Often, simply acknowledging what other people do for us is enough to make any relationship warmer. In fact, I often encourage couples to end the day by listing at least three things they are grateful for from that day about their partner or even about the day itself. Knowing that you will have to express your appreciation for things at the end of the night will make you more mindful of things to appreciate during the day.
2. Practice Reflective Listening
Practice might not ever make perfect, but it sure helps. It’s common for people to mistakenly believe that if they withhold approval or affection, their partner will change in the ways they want them to. While this might cause your partner to change, it probably won’t be in ways you like. Practicing reflective listening is one of the best techniques to improve communication in your relationship. So what does it mean?
This is something that a skilled couples therapist can walk you through during your session, but essentially it means that you listen to what your partner says and then repeat it back to them in your own words. You can try a simple reflection where you basically repeat back what’s been said, perhaps paraphrasing a little or you can try a complex reflection where you might infer a feeling or an experience based on what was said. This accomplishes two things. It validates what they’ve said because they know they’ve really been heard and it also clarifies any confusion. Instead of waiting for our turn to speak, we’re actively listening to what is being said and trying to understand what they’re telling us.
3. Schedule Important Conversations
On a related topic, there are some conversations that are tough to have no matter how skilled we are at communicating. So, when it comes to sensitive issues, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss them. I call these “relationship business meetings.” For example, maybe your partner wants to have a baby but you’re not sure if it’s a good time for you to start a family, or if you even want children. This is a situation that could quickly escalate into an argument, particularly if the topic comes up in a moment when you already feel stressed out about work or money or any number of other things.
Instead, consider setting aside a weekly meeting for an hour to explore the idea or any other hot-topic relationship issues. Choose a time when you both have the mental and emotional bandwidth to be fully present, and keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to find an answer at this time. The intent is to simply get the conversation started when you’re both in a calm and receptive state of mind—maybe even over brunch. You can always schedule a follow-up for later on, which will give you time to consider things in more depth.
By setting aside a weekly time to meet, you consolidate arguments into a single episode rather than have them bleed into the relationship throughout the week. It also allows time and space for each partner to reflect on their experience and opinions, and to come to the conversation more thoughtful and respectful of their needs and their partner's.
If you’re still finding it difficult to find your way through an issue, bring it to your teletherapy session. Your couples therapist will be able to offer you a fresh perspective and some useful insights into your current dynamic."
By: Abigail Brenner M.D. | January 16, 2022
"You may be on the same page with your partner for most things, but there will inevitably come a time when you don’t see eye to eye. You have some choices: You can ignore your differences and just circumvent the issue, or you can keep on trying to persuade your partner to see it your way, or you can get increasingly angry and eventually let your partner have it.
It’s probably a better idea to try to tackle your differences, the areas where you disagree, and attempt to iron out the problem in a way that allows both of you to express your opinions and beliefs, with the goal of finding some common ground, some area of compromise.
How do you do that when you feel strongly about an issue or problem, but so does your partner? Surely, you want to please yourself but you want your partner to feel satisfied as well. However, most of us are not taught how to have a constructive discussion. We model what we see around us. We may have seen people angry to the point where they stop talking to each other, or try to intimidate each other through insults and threats. We’ve perhaps seen situations where the conversation ends when one person declares their point of view the “winner.”
Here are some tips to help you navigate disagreements constructively and respectfully.
Be present and focused. Clear away all distractions—no emails, texts, or phone calls. Leave aside all other issues and things you need to do. Put everything else on hold. Pay close attention. Your only job is to listen carefully and to try to understand, not only what’s being said, but the emotions being expressed. Give your partner all the time they need to explain their side of the argument, discussion.
Don’t lecture. You probably have done this already but making time to constructively work on your differences is a completely different kind of exercise. It’s meant to be a give-and-take, back-and-forth discussion to help clarify your different points of view and to reach some kind of reasonable agreement about how to move forward. Your ideas and beliefs are just that—you’re ideas and beliefs. No more or less valid than your partner’s ideas and beliefs. Don’t lecture, or worse, pontificate from a superior position. This exercise is meant to level the field."
By: Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. | January 18, 2022
"Many of our everyday choices require making tradeoffs between the present and the future. These choices tend to have delayed consequences. In general, we want things now rather than later. This tendency is known as present bias. Present bias occurs when individuals place extra weight on more immediate rewards than future rewards. The more we disregard our longer-term interests in favor of immediate gratification, the more likely we will have an overspending problem.
The present bias is partially attributed to judgments of connectedness between the present and future self (Hershfield, 2018). We tend to think about our future selves as if they are someone else, wholly different from who we are today. If we view our distant self as another person who is more of a stranger to us, then the future selves’ well-being is none of our concern.
Feeling psychologically close to one’s distant self motivates more farsighted decisions that could lead to better outcomes in the future, such as having more money, better health, and fewer regrets. So how do we learn to relate to our future selves?
1. Psychological continuity
Psychological continuity refers to the perceived connectedness between the current self and the future self. To feel connected to our future selves means the continuation of our core identities such as values, life goals between the present and future self. When individuals feel similar to their future self, they are more likely to delay present gratification and make plans for the long run. Research has shown that higher levels of self-continuity to be positively correlated with better academic performance and less procrastination.
The inability to imagine a realistic future self fully and vividly is another reason for poor choices over time. Having a vivid view of the future ahead is a sign of social maturity for young adults. Education is shown to enlighten the person about the value of deferred versus current consumption. We might also spend time with older generations (our parents or grandparents) to remind ourselves of what our lives might be like 20 years from now. Vivid examples are often processed more emotionally, and this can affect motivation. For example, people who viewed age-progressed images of themselves expressed increased intentions to save for retirement.
3. Small steps
Another strategy is to frame sacrifices felt by the present self as being less burdensome. The key to reaching long-term goals often starts with small acts. A study demonstrated higher response rates for an automatic savings program when contributions were framed in daily terms, which feel less painful to the current self. For example, $5 a day in savings versus $150 a month."
By: Judith Orloff, M.D. | December 16, 2014
"A survival guide for empaths to stay grounded and centered."
"Sensitive people or empaths have an ability to be emotional sponges that can heighten when they are at a social event, around co-workers, or in crowds. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Negativity, though, often feels assaultive or exhausting.
For empaths to fully enjoy being around others, they must learn to protect their sensitivity and find balance. Since I’m an empath, I want to help them cultivate this capacity and be comfortable with it.
I’ve always been hyper-attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. Before I learned to protect my energy, I felt them lodge in my body. After being in crowds I would leave feeling anxious, depressed, or tired. When I got home, I’d just crawl into bed, yearning for peace and quiet.
Here are six strategies to help you manage your sensitivity more effectively and stay centered without absorbing negative energy.
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Written by Sharon Martin, LCSW on March 19, 2020
"Stress is an inevitable part of life. We all feel overwhelmed, confused, and anxious at times. And there are many effective and healthy ways to cope with stress, including releasing physical tension (such as through exercise or a hot bath) and reducing obsessive worries and negative thoughts.
Using affirmations is one way to change our thoughts and feelings. They can help us focus on how we want to feel and on our ability to cope.
However, if affirmations are going to work, they need to be realistic and authentic. Some positive affirmations are really corny and unbelievable (like, I am full of peace and joy). Telling yourself that you're full of peace and joy when you're actually full of tension and worry, probably isnt going to feel true or helpful. Instead, try to acknowledge your situation and feelings (that you feel stressed and anxious) and focus on how you want to cope — what you want to think, feel, and do in response.
Below are some affirmations that you may find helpful during times of stress and uncertainty. What feels true and right and helpful, certainly varies from person to person. So, use these as ideas to create your own affirmations or mantras. For example, you can make them more specific by stating something in particular that you're grateful for or a particular coping strategy that you will use.
Affirmations for stress and anxiety
By: Heather S. Lonczak, Ph.D. | 6/12/2021
"Most adults will become parents at some point in their lives (i.e., around 89.6% of the adult population worldwide; Ranjan, 2015).
And while most of us strive to be great parents, we may also find ourselves confused and frustrated by the seemingly endless challenges of parenthood.
As both parents of toddlers and teenagers can attest, such challenges are evident across all developmental stages.
But there is good news— numerous research-supported tools and strategies are now available for parents. These resources provide a wealth of information for common parenting challenges (i.e., bedtime issues, picky eating, tantrums, behavior problems, risk-taking, etc.); as well as the various learning lessons that are simply part of growing up (i.e., starting school, being respectful, making friends, being responsible, making good choices, etc.).
With its focus on happiness, resilience and positive youth development; the field of positive psychology is particularly pertinent to discussions of effective parenting. Thus, whether you are a parent who’s trying to dodge potential problems; or you are already pulling your hair out— you’ve come to the right place.
This article provides a highly comprehensive compilation of evidence-based positive parenting techniques. These ideas and strategies will cover a range of developmental periods, challenges, and situations. More specifically, drawing from a rich and robust collection of research, we will address exactly what positive parenting means; its many benefits; when and how to use it; and its usefulness for specific issues and age-groups.
This article also contains many useful examples, positive parenting tips, activities, programs, videos, books, podcasts – and so much more. By learning from and applying these positive parenting resources; parents will become the kind of parents they’ve always wanted to be: Confident, Optimistic, and even Joyful.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients build healthy, life-enriching relationships.
What is Positive Parenting?
Before providing a definition of positive parenting, let’s take a step back and consider what we mean by “parents.” While a great deal of parenting research has focused on the role of mothers; children’s psychosocial well-being is influenced by all individuals involved in their upbringing.
Such caregivers might include biological and adoptive parents, foster parents, single parents, step-parents, older siblings, and other relatives and non-relatives who play a meaningful role in a child’s life. In other words, the term “parent” applies to an array of individuals whose presence impacts the health and well-being of children (Juffer, Bakermans-Kranenburg & van Ijzendoorn, 2008).
Thus, any time the terms “parent” or “caregiver” are used herein; they apply to any individuals who share a consistent relationship with a child, as well as an interest in his/her well-being (Seay, Freysteinson & McFarlane, 2014).
Fortunately, parenting research has moved away from a deficit or risk factor model towards a more positive focus on predictors of positive outcomes (e.g., protective factors). Positive parenting exemplifies this approach by seeking to promote the parenting behaviors that are most essential for fostering positive youth development (Rodrigo, Almeida, Spiel, & Koops, 2012)."
By: Pregnancy and Postpartum TV | August 12, 2021
By Fiona Tapp
"Keep your holiday party going strong this season with these festive Christmas games for preschoolers, big kids, tweens, and teens—and parents, too!
Whether you throw your own Christmas party for your kids and their friends or you're just expecting to attend more than a few, having a collection of fun Christmas party games in mind will keep everyone entertained.
Mix it up with games for all ages, with some that encourage movement, require music, help them all let off some steam and then calm down and cool off before they go home.
Try these 10 Christmas games at your next kid's party, which require minimal setup, and you'll be crowned the party planner of the year!
1. Stack The Gifts
Best for: All ages
All you need is a collection of empty boxes wrapped up to look like gifts and some enthusiastic kids. Challenge individuals or teams to stack their tower of gifts the highest without any of them falling over. To increase the pressure you can introduce a time limit of 60 seconds.
2. Dress-Up Relay
Best for: Preschool and Elementary age kids
This Christmas party game will help kids use up a lot of energy in a fast-paced dress up race.
Each child will start by lining up in front of a pile of winter clothes. They will then be challenged to dress completely in a hat, mittens, snow pants, and coat before having to unwrap a candy with their hands in mittens. Finally, they have to return to the start and take everything back off, replacing it in a neat pile again. It's great practice for those busy mornings once school starts back again!
3. Candy Cane Hunt
Best for: Elementary age kids and up
Hide candy canes around the house and have children hunt them. They can then hang them on the Christmas tree and cash them in for a small prize.
4. Snowball Race
Best for: Elementary age kids and upKids are given a styrofoam or ping pong ball and a drinking straw and have to blow their "snowball" across the finishing line before their friends.
5. Snow Shovel Race
Best for: Ages 7 and up
You'll need some bowls and cotton balls to challenge kids to a snow shovel race but not the kind you're thinking of. To "shovel the snow" they will need to balance cotton balls on a spoon and transfer them into the bowls before their friends beat them (it's harder than you think!)"