By: Kat Gage
Using positive self-affirmations has been said to help break the cycle of negative self-talk. Positive self-affirmations also help you develop new thinking habits while practicing self-compassion all of which are very beneficial to improving our mental health, but are the affirmations alone enough?
In the short term, affirmations are very helpful, but over time if we continue this practice without any other method of developing emotional resiliency, the affirmations begin to lose their effectiveness. As a result, overtime we begin to feel worse about ourselves and our ability to reach goals and endeavors that we set for ourselves.
The Mind and Memories…Storytelling
You may be surprised to learn that our brains have a great imagination…even as adults. We imagine so well and it feels so real that sometimes we may have a hard time trying to figure out if that memory is real or not. The memory may not be real. According to Jeffrey Davis, M.A., this happens because, “imagining an object, situation, or action in vivid detail lights up the same neural pathways that the same object, situation, or action would trigger in real life” (Davis, 2022).
This function of our brain is what sets us back when it comes to positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are essentially wishful thinking or fantasies. We repeat mantras or picture ourselves acing a test or an interview, etc. When we envision doing well on a goal, but don’t actually accomplish the goal in real life, our brain’s storytelling function tricks us because we feel the same sense of reward as if the goal was satisfied in real life.
This becomes problematic because we believe we’ve already won and/or we have boosted our ego which may lead to a loss of motivation or feeling completely crushed and overwhelmed by the obstacles that we need to conquer to reach our goals.
If positive affirmations alone don’t work, what’s the missing tool we should utilize to improve our overall mental health and ensure we are conquering our goals?
Learned optimism, defined by positive psychologist Martin Seligman, is the key!
Jeffrey Davis, M.A., states, “There is an important distinction between wishful thinking and what Seligman termed “learned optimism.” While the former can easily lapse into escapist fantasies, the latter is the conscious practice of viewing the world from a positive perspective. It means understanding “failures” or misfortunes—and the negative emotions associated with them—as temporary setbacks and opportunities for growth” (Davis, 2022).
When faced with a failure, practicing learned optimism helps us feel empowered to redirect our path and conquer future obstacles and reach our goals.
To help us in practicing learned optimism, Seligman designed the ABCDE model which allows us to explore the stories our brain is writing, the behaviors surrounding those stories, and helps us challenge the negative stories that come along.
To learn more about the ABCDE (Adversity, Belief, Consequence, Disputation, & Energization) model, to start practicing learned optimism, to begin feeling less hopeless, and more motivated, click the link below!
Davis, J. (2022, September 29). Self-Affirmations Alone Don't Work. Psychology Today. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tracking-wonder/202209/self-affirmations-alone-dont-work
By: Lisa Firestone Ph.D. | September 10, 2022
"There are a million things that can cause our mood to rise and fall throughout any given day. Whether or not we show it, and no matter how hard we work to keep calm and carry on, our emotional responses can run widely outside of our control.
It’s an unavoidable and entirely human thing to react to what goes on around us. Our feelings don’t have to be rational to show up. They’re instinctual, immediate, and can trickily be triggered by our past. They can make perfect sense or puzzle us when they arise.
Adding to their mystery are the feelings on top of feelings — the harsh judgments that flood in from our own inner critic, for example, the guilt we feel for being angry at our 6-year-old for throwing a monster fit over screen time. The embarrassment we feel over our disappointment when a date falls through. The resentment we experience when we feel anxious and overworked either at home or in the office. The shame we have around our sadness when it’s particularly close to the surface for no particular reason.
The complexity of our daily emotions makes it hard to suggest a one-size-fits-all approach to feeling better. However, there are some ongoing practices we can adopt that orient us toward more resilience. When asked for a more immediate method for what to do to get out of a bad mood, these are pretty much the three main things I advise:
1. Embrace Self-Compassion
The first thing we need to do is suspend any judgment around our feelings. As I said, our immediate emotions are largely outside of our control. This doesn’t mean they have to overpower us or that we can justify our behavior because of them, but it does mean that we shouldn’t be cruel or critical toward ourselves for having them.
When we have a big reaction, we should try to meet that reaction with self-compassion. Self-compassion, as defined by leading researcher Kristin Neff, comprises three things:
Self-kindness means meeting ourselves where we are, having compassion for the fact that we’re struggling, and offering ourselves time, space, and patience around our emotions.
Mindfulness, which I’ll get into more later, is all about letting our thoughts and feelings be there without over-attaching to them or tending to them like fires we need to put out immediately. Having a more mindful approach helps us avoid falling into a pattern of rumination or a feeling of being totally overwhelmed.
Accepting our common humanity is a way of seeing our suffering as part of a broader human experience. We’re not alone or singled out in our struggles. Many people have been where we are, and we, like them will get through it. Common humanity helps us extend the same compassion we’d have for others to ourselves, but it also helps us avoid victimization or a sense that we’re different in some way that makes our situation worse than everyone else’s.
What this all boils down to is essentially treating ourselves the way we would a friend going through the same thing. People are highly prone to self-evaluation and tend to have a harder time accepting themselves where they’re at. This applies as much to our mood as anything else. We tend to not have a lot of patience for our own ups and downs.
By instantly meeting our mood with self-compassion, we curtail both the self-pity and self-hatred that often accompanies our feelings. Instead, we treat ourselves with kindness and accept these feelings as part of our very human experience.
2. Try Mindfulness Exercises
Because self-compassion is more an attitude than an action, it can sometimes seem a little vague or easier said than done. For that reason, I like to dive a little deeper into one of its components. Practicing mindfulness can be a powerful way to not get too attached to each and every fleeting feeling that comes our way.
Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation, but it’s also something we can connect with in specific moments throughout our day. While focusing on breathing or predictable, repetitive actions is helpful, the basic idea is to allow our thoughts and feelings to come and go without judgment. We can think of each feeling like a ship passing along the ocean. We can watch it make its way across the horizon, but think of ourselves more like an island, allowing the thought to pass. We can calmly ignore the impulse to jump aboard every ship and get carried away, or the opposite, where we try and run away from our feelings and shut them out. This paradoxically keeps them stuck.
Emotions come and go, and their intensity rises and falls much like the tide. The more we can be curious and accepting of what we’re going through, the more we allow the feeling to run its natural course. Mindfulness helps us stay in our bodies, focusing on things like breathing in and out or putting one foot in front of the other. We may try connecting with each of our five senses or a quick practice like 4-7-8 breathing.
The main thing to remember is that there are options available to us in moments when we feel overwhelmed or overpowered, and our mood plummets. These simple-seeming practices can help us embrace (and actually believe) the expression that “feelings aren’t facts.” Not everything our brain tells us to be anxious or upset about is actually worth our time and energy. Mindfulness helps bring us back to ourselves by cultivating a curious and open attitude toward our reactions that doesn’t allow these reactions to define us or take over our entire outlook."
Lisa van Raalte Ph.D. | August 23, 2022
"It might not come as a surprise, but since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many into lockdown, there has been a surge in pregnancies in the United States. Initially, the onset of the pandemic resulted in a “baby-bust” where there were fewer pregnancies as compared to the previous year; those numbers have since reversed, however, and the U.S. has seen a rebound in pregnancy numbers.
Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, family planning has been a topic of conversation for a lot of households. For those who are already expecting, added stress to pregnancy can be harmful to the mother and child. Thankfully, romantic partners can help pregnant companions through massage.
Massages are a great way to reduce stress for both the receiver and provider. Not only does massage between romantic partners increase feelings of closeness, but this specific behavior also has several health benefits for mothers.
Here are four benefits of massage for pregnant women:
By: Sebastian Ocklenburg, Ph.D. | September 7, 2022
"Life in a large city can be incredibly stressful. Psychological research has shown that people who live in cities may have an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia compared to people living in more rural areas. In contrast, many people perceive hiking and spending time in nature as stress-relieving and calming. What has been largely unclear so far, however, is the question of how specifically spending time in nature affects our brain function to reduce stress.
The positive effects of nature on mental well-beingA new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry (Sudimac et al., 2022), focused on precisely this question. In the study, entitled “How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature,” a research team led by Sonja Sudimac from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin investigated how stress-related brain regions reacted to a one-hour walk in an urban environment—a busy street in Berlin—compared to a natural environment; in this case, a forest.
The researchers used a neuroscientific technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activation in 63 healthy volunteers in two groups: walking in nature or walking in an urban environment. In both groups, brain activation was measured before and after the walk, using two different tasks in the MRI scanner. The first fMRI task was a fearful-faces task designed to activate anxiety-related brain networks, and the second fMRI task was a social-stress task designed to activate stress-related brain networks.
In the fearful-faces task, volunteers watched faces with fearful and neutral expressions while lying in the scanner. The so-called MIST (Montreal Imaging Stress Task) was used as the social stress task. In the MIST, volunteers have to solve very complicated mathematical tasks designed to be beyond their abilities, while they get compared to a fake "average." The fake average the volunteers see is always better than their own performance, so that they may feel stressed since they perform so badly.
Amygdala activity is reduced after a walk in natureThe scientists found very similar results in both the fearful faces and the stress test. For the group of volunteers that walked for one hour in an urban environment, there were no changes in the activation of fear or stress-related networks between the two scans. In contrast, for the group of volunteers that walked for one hour in nature, there was a decrease in activity in one specific brain area for both fMRI tasks after the walk: the amygdala; in particular, the right amygdala."
By: Sharon Martin, LCSW | August 29, 2022
"Many of us avoid setting boundaries because we feel guilty when we set a limit or ask for something. Feeling guilty is understandable. However, not setting boundaries can lead to bigger problems.
Boundaries are important for several reasons. They create healthy relationships and clear expectations. Boundaries protect us from being hurt and taken advantage of. And they ensure that we use our time, energy, and money for the things that matter most to us.
Learning to set boundaries without feeling guilty can be challenging, but it is possible. It involves changing the way you think about yourself and your boundaries. We need to move away from a people-pleaser mindset that lets others dictate what’s right for us, and begin to prioritize our needs.
Everyone needs boundaries
Boundaries are limits and expectations that we set for ourselves and others. They help both parties understand how to behave—what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.
If you don’t have boundaries, people can treat you however they want; there are no rules or guidelines. They can touch you, ask intrusive questions, yell at you, or call you in the middle of the night. You’re likely to overwork, and allow others to take advantage of your kindness; eventually, this will negatively impact your physical and mental health.
It may seem laughable, but without any boundaries, a stranger could come into your house, eat your food, wear your clothes, and take a nap on your sofa. Most of us wouldn’t be okay with this. You’d tell them to leave – and you wouldn’t feel guilty about it. So, why do we struggle to tell our friends and family members how they can treat us or how they can behave in our homes?
Why do we feel guilty when we set boundaries?
Guilt is the feeling or belief that you’ve done something wrong. When you’ve truly done something wrong, the discomfort of feeling guilty can motivate you to change and do better in the future.
But if you feel guilty when you haven’t done anything wrong—like setting a boundary—guilt causes problems and can be an obstacle to doing something that’s in your own best interest.
We feel guilty because we think boundaries are mean, wrong, or selfish. Who has told you that it's wrong or selfish to set boundaries? Who has shown you that it's wrong through their response to your boundaries?
It's important to remember that others may resist your boundaries, but that doesn't make them wrong or selfish. That is their opinion; it’s not a fact. Often, our lack of boundaries has enabled others to take advantage of us—and it's understandable that they will push back when we start standing up for ourselves.
Boundaries are a form of self-care; everyone needs to take care of themselves in order to be healthy, happy, productive, and compassionate. You can challenge your guilty feelings and see if they’re warranted by asking yourself the following questions, adapted from my book The Better Boundaries Workbook (Martin, 2021).
Tips for setting boundaries without guiltSetting boundaries is easier and less guilt-provoking when you keep these tips in mind.
By: Lisa Firestone Ph.D. | August 27, 2022
"As much as being in love can feel like a natural state we either experience or don’t, we have much more say in it than we may think. Research has shown that taking more loving actions can make couples feel more in love. In this way, there’s much truth to the notion that love is more a verb than a noun. The more we express love, the more we ignite it in our partner and cultivate it in ourselves.
Thinking about how we show love can be a powerful practice for keeping our feelings alive and well in a relationship. The key isn’t to solely focus on our feelings of affection but to think about what our partner perceives as love. In other words, what actions would that specific person experience as loving?
It’s common and fairly instinctual to give love how we would feel it. For some people, that means showering their partner with cards and gifts, expressing lots of affection, and frequently saying “I love you.” For others, love is something more low-key, a quiet appreciation of the other person wherein you give them space to do their own thing.
Many relationship issues can center on misunderstandings or miscommunications about what makes each person feel loved. For instance, one person may expect their partner to know instinctively what they want and need. They may feel hurt by their partner when they inevitably get it wrong, thinking things like, “I would do this for them. Why wouldn’t they do that for me?” The answer may be that their partner just doesn’t see that particular action as meaningful or desirable in the same way. They simply have different things they categorize as expressions of love.
For example, a couple I worked with often got into heated arguments around their anniversary. For one partner, the day meant a lot, and she wanted to celebrate by doing something together. She thought of the occasion as an excuse to tell her husband how she felt about him and what she loved about their relationship. She liked to plan getaways and romantic dinners and was often disappointed that her husband didn’t put the same effort into celebrating.
For her husband, the date itself didn’t hold as much meaning. While he often bought her a small gift or flowers for their anniversary, he didn’t see the point in making a single day such a big deal. He felt like what mattered most was that he appreciated his wife and their relationship every day. He believed romance should be more spontaneous and not overly planned.
Their two perspectives inevitably left one of them disappointed. While she was feeling hurt and rejected, he was feeling pressured and disregarded. What finally helped them reach an understanding was each of them taking time to put themselves in the other’s shoes and recognize that the things that made their partner feel loved and appreciated were different from their own.
Once they accepted that simple reality, they saw their actions as part of a goal to make the other person feel valued instead of a sacrifice that bent them out of shape. Because each of them desired to make the other happy, they could be more open about what that meant for their partner. However, they realized that love boiled down to different actions than they imagined.
The husband realized that kind and acknowledging words, affection, and gestures meant much more to his wife than gifts that weren’t as personal. The wife started to understand how much it meant to her husband to let things happen naturally. She let their anniversary unfold more spontaneously and did not place as much pressure on just one day of celebration. Instead, she could appreciate her partner's loving ways throughout the year.
All kinds of factors determine what each of us experiences as love. Yet being curious and open to our partner’s unique way of feeling loved can make us better, more attuned partners. So, how can we “get better” at knowing what our partner wants and needs?
1. Listen to what they’re saying.
When we spend a lot of time with someone, on the one hand, we may feel we know them better than anyone else. On the other hand, we may stop noticing certain things about them as they become more familiar to us. This isn’t because we’re not interested or don’t care. It’s often just because our lives can get busy, routinized, or comfortable, so we stop actively getting to know the other person.
Paying attention to what our partner says sounds like the most obvious advice we’ll ever hear, but it’s something we have to remind ourselves to keep doing. Make a mental note of when they mention something that matters to them or something that excites them. Encourage them to be vocal about and ask for what they want."
By: Richard Brouillette, LCSW | August 1, 2022
"This is part two of a two-part post. Click here to read part one."
"When we focus on possible outcomes and scenarios based on anxious thinking, our brain does what Ethan Kross, in his new book Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, describes as “projecting scenes onto our mental home theater” as images in our mind’s eye. A fascinating element of mental home theater imagery is that we can experience events in our mind from different perspectives. This led Kross and colleagues to conduct an experiment that asked participants to imagine an upsetting memory— except some participants were asked to imagine reexperiencing the memory first-person, while others were asked to experience the memory as though they were watching events happen from a third-person, outsider perspective. Kross called the two groups the immersers and the distancers. The striking result was that the distancers coped much better; they were able to empathize with others more, have more sympathy for themselves, and understand when they were being irrational. It turns out that viewing our troubles through a third-person perspective also has the benefit of reducing the effects of being stuck in a survival-mode, fight-flight-freeze stress response. This also means less physical stress when imagining tough scenarios and problem-solving.
Kross calls this a “distancing approach.” He goes on to explore types of distancing, including journaling about your life from the perspective of a neutral observer, and “temporal distancing,” in which you imagine yourself in the future, after you have come out of the stressful time you currently experience.
All of these techniques show that when you distance, you are able to be less emotionally triggered, less stressed mentally and physically, and you make better judgments and decisions.
To a schema therapist, Kross makes stunning points regarding distancing and talking out loud to yourself, or speaking to yourself by name. In neuroscience-speak, talking to yourself “triggers the pattern recognition software” we use when talking to someone else. This is a verbal kind of distancing, or distanced self-talk, yielding very quickly the same benefits of distancing that come from scene imagery and journaling. This means talking to yourself in the third person, calling yourself by your name. An example Kross offers is when, during a night of insomnia and anxious mental chatter, he says out loud to himself, “Ethan. Go to bed.”
Another, very moving example of distanced self-talk came out of University of Buffalo experiments with children doing distanced self-talk as a way of coping with losing a parent. Children who talked about experiences using the “I” pronoun were more likely to develop symptoms of PTSD. But those who practiced distanced self-talk coped better. Self-talk, again, is addressing the self in the third person: “No matter what, their dad loved them, and they have to think of the good things that happened… they can hold on to the good memories and let the bad ones go.”
Schema Therapy and Four Distancing Tools
For decades, schema therapy has been developing, honing, and practicing distancing tools very much in line with Kross's neuroscience research. The next time you find yourself caught up in anxious chatter, you may have some success trying one of these techniques. These exercises may be most effective if you try journaling about your experience as you practice them.
Imagery Rescripting. Work with a scene in the video library of your mind, whether it’s a memory or an imagined scene you’re worrying about. Start with the scene as you see it. Next, switch your perspective to being a spectator watching the scene happen to you. Speak about yourself in the third person: “What does she need right now to get through this?” Your answers, for example, could be “strength” or “confidence” or “compassion” or “understanding” or “fairness.” Now reimagine the scene with a different outcome, including the qualities you believe “she” needs. Tell yourself you can imagine having these qualities so that you connect to them.
Parts Dialogue. If you are stuck in a chatter mode that is negative and self-critical, try to separate yourself into parts and have them talk to each other. Try allowing for the voice of your inner critic to speak, and then respond from the perspective of a realistic, skeptical, self-compassionate you. When both voices talk, they should speak about you in the third person. Inner critic: “He should have known better; this never would have happened.” Compassionate self: “It’s not fair to expect anyone to predict the future that way! Sometimes bad things happen in life, and being critical like that isn’t going to help him.”"
By: Mark Travers Ph.D. | August 22, 2022
"Relationships are the foundation of life, and the one we have with ourselves is paramount. Unfortunately, many of us take it for granted. Here, I’ll talk about three research-backed ways to calm your inner demons and approach life with a heightened sense of self-compassion.
1. Respect Your Learning Curve
Many of us have unrealistic expectations about how long it takes to acquire new skills or adapt to new environments. We believe that if we enroll in a program, or take a course, our brains will magically open up and absorb all the new information. Of course, the marketing of quick-fix and speed-learning programs is much to blame for our unrealistic expectations. (Sorry, but there’s no such thing as eight-minute abs or four-hour work weeks.)
Cognitive psychologists will tell you that learning is a gradual process and one that cannot be rushed. There has been a lot written about the 10,000-hour rule—the premise being that, on average, it takes about 10,000 hours to master any new skill. While there’s a lively debate over how accurate this rule actually is, the broad takeaway is highly relevant: Learning takes time.
Yet we routinely chastise ourselves for not getting things right on our first, second, or third tries.
When you start thinking this way (and we all do it), you need to remember to be nice to yourself and respect the learning process. If you don’t, you run the risk of disengaging with the learning exercise altogether.
Furthermore, we have to be careful about setting comparison points. What I mean by this is that if we compare how much progress we’ve made from this week to last week, we’re probably going to be let down. Remember, learning is a gradual process. However, if we widen the comparison window—say, from last summer to this summer—we might find a bit more appreciation for the gains we’ve made. Remember Bill Gates’s famous adage, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.”
On a similar note, it’s important to keep in mind that forgetting is a necessary part of learning. Don’t beat yourself up for forgetting things. If we didn’t forget, our brains would fill up with useless information. Forgetting allows us to synthesize information into usable "models" that reflect how the world works.
2. Show Yourself the Same Kindness You Show Others
Many of us find it easy to express kindness when interacting with others. However, when it comes to ourselves, we are overly critical. We may believe that self-compassion is self-indulgent and lazy, or that it will somehow fundamentally undermine our motivation.
But this is a flawed and counterproductive belief. In fact, research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, led by psychologist Christine Chwyl of Drexel University, found self-compassion to be something of a "motivational supercharger": Our research echoes what studies have found time and time again—self-compassion not only feels better than harsh self-criticism, but it works better too, helping us rise to life’s inevitable challenges.
So, the next time you experience a setback, try reflecting on it from a place of self-compassion (e.g., “How am I a better person because of this?”) as opposed to a place of self-criticism (e.g., “Why do I fail at everything?”).
Other new research on self-compassion published in Personality and Individual Differences finds that the ability to treat ourselves with kindness not only helps us get through difficult times, but it also helps us savor the good times. According to psychologist and lead author of the study, Benjamin Schellenberg: People who are self-compassionate may have a better ability to be mindful and present during good times and recognize that they deserve to experience positive experiences to their fullest."
By: Cami Ostman M.S. | June 20, 2012
"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." — G. K. Chesterton
"One of my favorite quotes is from G. K. Chesterton, a Christian philosopher who argued that most of what must be done to make the world go 'round is done by the average Joe who does not do it perfectly — or sometimes even well.
For reasons that may be obvious to those who know me, I love this sentiment. Like many of you, I exited my childhood as a perfectionist, afraid of making mistakes and determined to do everything I undertook as flawlessly as I could. I approached college with a soul-killing effort that left me exhausted, albeit graduating with honors. And in my first marriage, I was guided by religious ideas about gender roles that sucked me (and I daresay my ex-husband) dry after a decade.
It was an unlikely teacher — the marathon — that taught me, once and for all, to dispense with perfectionism. You see, I don't come from a family of athletes. In my family, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents — all have eschewed regular exercise. Even in my own generation (brothers and cousins), there are very few who played soccer or softball. We just aren't an athletic clan. But in my first year at community college, I took a dance aerobics class and learned that I enjoyed moving my body. For years, I happily kept up a moderate routine of exercise. And then in my mid-thirties, a friend of mine challenged me to train for a marathon.
I took the challenge and quickly discovered that my body was not built for running. I slogged along on my training runs, barely managing the effort it took to build up my miles. Even now, after nearly a decade of marathoning, I'm no faster than I was when I trained for my first 26.2 race.
Unlike in my education, pure will and effort have not made me better at running. I do not run because I'm good at it. I run because of what I get out of it. I get exercise, yes, but I also get time to meditate, a way to challenge myself, a clear, deep breath during stressful times, and a regular reminder that perfection is overrated.
In this life, we sometimes do what we do because we do it well. Other times we partake in an activity or engage in a task because it is worth doing. None of us is perfect at marriage, parenting, work, friendship, or any number of other things we value. Some days, if we are honest, we will admit that we aren't even good at whatever we're doing. Does that mean we close up shop and quit?
I daresay most of us live with the paradox of working toward “excellence” while making do with "good enough." Perfectionism, that pesky drive to meet some pinnacle of an outwardly defined ideal, is a mean task-master. For those it does not drive into flurries of striving, it often paralyzes."
By: Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W. | Posted August 7, 2022
"When my kids were teenagers, they went to an Outward Bound course. Though they each did different things—hiking vs. sailing vs. rock climbing—the core activities were the same: High ropes course, run a half marathon, live in the woods by yourself for three days, build a lean-to, practice how to deal with bears or falling overboard. When they came back, they were pumped: Bring it on! Eat my dust!
In other words, their self-confidence had ramped up by 1,000 points. Why? Because they had spent three weeks continually facing near-death experiences.
Self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image all fall in the same bundle—about feeling good about yourself, feeling more like a winner than a loser. What gets in the way? Generally, a cause and a result: The cause is that you learned to be too self-critical, likely by having critical and unsupportive people around you. You never give yourself a break; even the smallest mistake—the burned biscuits—is another demerit and sign of your incompetence. Your expectations are impossibly high, and everything—even the biscuits—is what you’re overall competence is measured by.
But the result of this ongoing criticism is that you learned to give up on yourself, setting your self-image in concrete. You no longer try anything new because you “know” it will not work out. You give up on your dreams because you “know” you can’t reach them. You’re one of the “losers”; your life becomes small, filled with resignation. You avoid those break-out experiences that can make all the difference.
Time to make that difference and change that story. Like that Outward Bound course, to change your self-image, and increase your self-confidence and self-esteem, you don’t need to start by changing your emotions or attitude but by changing what you do. Here are some tips:
1. Set a challenge.What is it that you most want to change about yourself? It might be something physical—exercising more, drinking less. Or relational—speaking up and telling others what bothers you rather than holding it in.
Pick one thing. The topic ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is picking something important enough to motivate you into action.
2. Map out baby steps.This is the key. You may be ready to break out, but the danger is that you try and do the make-over: Work out seven days a week, stop drinking altogether, confront your mother or boyfriend or boss. You’re doing all-or-nothing; you’ll burn out, get frustrated, or it will blow up, only adding more fuel to your story of incompetence. Slow and steady wins the race.
3. Focus on the effort, not the outcome.Sometimes your efforts won’t get you the results you want. You get the courage to speak up to your boss about your schedule, and she still doesn’t change it. You work out for two weeks, but nothing seems to have changed. That’s fine. Don’t measure success by what happens next, but by doing it at all.
Ultimately, the goal is not the outcome—whether you achieve what you’re striving for—but the process—taking the risk, stepping outside your comfort zone, doing rather than believing, or despite believing that you can’t. And sometimes, you will achieve what you want. As you accumulate these experiences and become more comfortable with risk-taking, you’ll change the story. You’re no longer the loser; you’re actually courageous, confident, and competent.
4. Stop that critical voice.But that critical voice will always be looking over your shoulder, ready to pounce and let you know that your success was dumb luck, that it wasn’t significant, that it’s only a matter of time before you fall back into your loser status. You can think of your critical voice as a bully constantly beating you up or as hypervigilant guard dogs trying to protect you. Pick one.
If it's a bully, time to push back. Start by paying attention to when that voice kicks up. Good. Now tell it to stop, practice ignoring it, not letting it distract you from moving forward, and better yet, pat yourself on the back for taking the risk and making an effort. And if you think in terms of the guard dogs, be the alpha, let them know that you’re OK, there’s nothing to worry about, that you got this. Realize that critical voice isn’t you."
By: Lisa Firestone Ph.D. | July 24, 2022
"Many people have only heard the term “collaborative communication” used in the context of company culture and teamwork. It’s basically defined as a method of exchanging information that helps people work toward a common goal. Yet, it’s not just businesses that reap the rewards of this type of relating.
Studies have shown that couples who practiced collaborative communication experienced more overall relationship satisfaction. When you get into the steps of collaborative communication, it’s clear how it can be a powerful tool for improving interpersonal relationships. Here, I break down what it entails and why it makes such a difference to the quality of a relationship.
What is collaborative communication?
Collaborative communication does not just refer to the words that come out of our mouths. Rather, it encompasses all the intricate ways we communicate through tone, expression, body signals, etc. Most of us aren’t even aware of all the messages we send on both verbal and non-verbal levels. Many conflicts between couples arise from misreads, misunderstandings, and lapses in our communication.
In order for two people with two completely different minds and two complex personal histories to live harmoniously, there needs to be a certain amount of balance and understanding. Collaborative communication offers a pathway to achieve just that by helping people become more aware of all the ways they communicate and guiding them to make an effort to align themselves with the other person in order to achieve a shared understanding.
How can we cultivate collaborative communication in our closest relationships?
Communicating collaboratively means taking actions that draw our partner out and trying to understand an interaction from their perspective. Our goal is to align our state with theirs, so we get a fuller picture of their experience separate from our own. When we do this, we often have to fight our own impulses to come from a more reactive, defensive, or combative place in ourselves.
Successful collaborative communication further focuses on how we can express our own perspective in a manner where we are more likely to be heard by our partner. Enhancing our ability to communicate with more vulnerability, openness, and empathy creates more trust in the relationship. Couples can form much stronger connections where each person feels known and understood by the other.
The specific techniques we can work on to achieve this type of communication with a partner include:
1. Becoming a better, more attuned, and less defensive listener
In order to be on the same team, we have to work on our listening skills. Tuning in to our partner and aligning our state with theirs is crucial. We can do this by really hearing them out without interrupting or arguing with their perspective. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they say, but our goal in this moment is to understand where they’re coming from as best we can, put ourselves in their shoes, and empathize with their unique experience. This is part of creating a shared understanding.
2. Separating our past from the present
In order to press pause on our immediate reactions, especially those that are exaggeratedly emotional or defensive, we have to do some reflecting on why we get triggered by certain interactions. Some of us get set off by a partner’s exasperated expression or instructive tone. Others feel provoked by hearing a series of complaints or getting any sort of feedback.
Understanding that both what we hear and how we react during conflict is influenced by the lens of our past helps us recognize that what we’re reacting to in real time isn’t always fully to blame for the big feelings that emerge within us. The more we get to know and recognize our triggers, the more we can resist falling victim to them. Rather than blindly following our flared-up reactions, we can be mindful and choose how we want to respond to our partner.
3. Expressing ourselves in ways that allow our partner to know and feel for us
Our tendency to feel like we need to protect ourselves often leaves us using more defensive or combative language. Instead, we should focus on expressing how we think and feel in a way that doesn’t lay blame on the other person but rather invites them to know and feel for us. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me. You only care about what you want,” you could say, “I feel hurt when I don’t feel listened to. I really appreciate when you take time to hear me out and take my feelings into consideration.”
4. Repairing after ruptures in communication
Let’s face it, we all make mistakes and are bound to have moments when we’re not at our best (to say the least) with the people we care most about. The best thing we can do to get back on the same team is to repair. Acknowledge what took place, accept responsibility for your part in it, and try to find a more balanced way to communicate your thoughts, feelings, wants, or needs. Listening to our partner’s experience of the rupture is also essential. Making space for them to express their perspective helps them feel heard and allows for healing."
By: Mark Travers Ph.D. | July 14, 2022
"To love someone is to accept them fully, blemishes and all. We all know this definition of love. Over the years, certain behaviors, rituals, and symbols have become synonymous with this all-encompassing notion of an eternal bond, such as the institution of marriage.
However, such a binary and rigid view of love can cause us to ignore its many gray areas. We can start indulging in behavior that is to our detriment and allow for behavior that is obviously problematic.
Mental-health research has proven time and again that love can look and feel different from the way it appears in books, movies, and music. Here are three common mistakes people make when they view their intimate relationships too rigidly.
1. You’re too quick to make sacrifices for your partner.Yes, sacrifice is inevitable in most relationships. And yes, it is honorable. But is it always necessary? Research says not really. “It’s certainly honorable to put aside one’s own self-interest because of your partner or your relationship,” explains psychologist Francesca Righetti. “However, our research shows that there is a difficult aftermath for both the giver and the recipient.”
According to Righetti’s research, this is what the aftermath often looks like:
While sacrifice has this effect on both partners in a relationship, women are more likely to experience lower well-being after sacrificing because sacrifices are often viewed as their duty instead of their choice. This means they may especially experience the costs of sacrifice, but few of the benefits.
To avoid the pain sacrifice can cause in a relationship, Righetti advises partners to follow these two steps:
2. You’re too lenient in letting things go.Sometimes our loved ones may behave in a manner that is unethical and/or potentially harmful. These situations require us to be completely honest with our partners and ourselves – but it is possible that we fail to do so because we love them.
“When someone close to us behaves unethically, we face a conflict between upholding our moral values and maintaining our relationship,” explains psychologist Rachel Forbes of the University of Toronto in Canada.
Forbes’ research found that people often experience a deep ambivalence when responding to a significant other's unethical actions – possibly because of people’s tendency to share a sense of identity with their loved ones:
The costs of this ambivalence are twofold:
For people who might be struggling with being honest about a loved one's misbehavior, Forbes has the following advice: “The ambivalence we feel when confronted with close others’ bad behavior is difficult to reconcile. When faced with a loved one’s unethical behavior, it’s important to reflect on our moral values and whether the act itself fits within those values.”"
By Deborah Skolnik | Updated on July 14, 2022
"Cute as they are, babies can be quirky, too. They've got immature nervous systems, zero life experience, brains that are still developing, and, let's face it, not a lot of social awareness. Add all that up, and it's no surprise they do things that make no sense to adults.
So what kind of head-scratchers might you encounter? Read on to learn about six weird baby behaviors that pop up sometime in a baby's first year.
Touching Their Genitals
It's time for a diaper change, so you do what you usually do and take off your baby's diaper. Except this time, your baby doesn't just lie there; their hands wander south and stay there. What's going on? Are they copping a feel?
Yes and no. "It's very common to see babies start playing with their genitals around the 5 to 7 month mark," says DeAnn Davies, the director of child development at Honor Health (formerly Scottsdale Healthcare) in Arizona. "It means something very different to them than it does to you, I promise!" Babies are driven to touch themselves out of simple curiosity, she explains: "They're such eager learners and explorers at that age—anything they can get their hands on is fair game."
Their natural curiosity includes themselves and their various body parts. "If you think about it, your child is also playing a lot with his hands and feet, but it doesn't attract your attention the way it does when he touches his genitals," adds Peter Vishton, Ph.D., head researcher at the Child Development Research Center at the College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. Your baby may spend more time on their genitals than on other places because it feels good.
It's important to remember that genitals are just body parts like everything else, so avoid reactions that might induce shame. Instead, adopt a body-positive approach. For example, if your little one reaches down during a diaper change, hand them a toy so they have something different to occupy their attention. Or else just go with the flow. "Accept that touching themselves is something kids do, and it's just another way of learning about their bodies," Davies says.
Flailing Their Arms When Startled
Long ago, before the modern conveniences of BabyBjörns and bouncy seats, wee ones spent a lot of time in their parent's arms—from which a fall could be fatal. So, babies adapted by developing a defensive strategy against getting dropped. At least, that's how some experts think an automatic behavior called the Moro reflex came to be.
Whenever your infant has the sensation that they're falling or if they're startled, they may fling their arms out to either side as though they're trying to fly. "If someone had lost her grip on a baby, it helped him literally hang on for dear life and bought mom a few seconds to catch him," says Davies.
While it's startling to see the Moro in action, it's actually a sign that your little one's nervous system is developing properly. Still, "it's stressful on the infant," says Dr. Vishton. "His breathing and heart rates will go up." But don't worry—the reflex usually subsides by about 3 months.
Standing but Unable To Sit Back Down
Around 10 months of age, your baby will hit a cool milestone: They'll grab onto a piece of furniture and pull themselves up onto their feet. Unfortunately, this exciting turn of events has a downside—they may be unable to figure out how to sit again!
Lowering your butt back down takes practice and coordination. So get ready: "You may be awakened at night by a crying baby who's stranded upright, holding on to the side of his crib," Davies says.
It's OK to offer a helping hand, but don't rush to sweep them off their feet altogether. "Sitting is a skill he needs to learn for himself," Dr. Vishton explains. The chances they'll hurt themselves are small since babies have those cushy tushies (and diapers) for padding. During the day, put them next to a safe surface to pull up on (like the edge of a sturdy sofa) and put down a pillow. Soon they'll be sitting with confidence.
Getting the Shivers
One minute, your baby's lying there calmly. The next, they're trembling like you did when you got your nursery-furniture bill. What's going on?
That's a nervous-system blip, says Davies. "Neurologically, babies are just not very good at regulating their movement at first, and you may see a little jerkiness. It's just part of the maturation process," she explains.
Of course, check their hands to see if they feel cold. While you might shiver a little when you catch a chill, a newborn can quiver much harder, says Dr. Vishton. "Babies are born relatively thin since they have to fit in their mothers' bodies," he explains. Therefore, your little one doesn't have much padding to help them regulate their body temperature. And they can't do the things you do when a breeze passes, like fold their arms across their chest or grab a sweatshirt. That's where trembling comes in handy: When muscles tense and relax rapidly, it generates heat. So, give them an extra layer of clothing and see if it helps.
If your child trembles often and it's accompanied by crying, that's worth a call to a health care provider. But the occasional shiver is usually not something to stress over."
By: Melanie Greenberg Ph.D. | March 30, 2015
"We all want loving and successful relationships, but we don't always know how to achieve them. Over time, negative cycles can develop and loving feelings can turn into frustration, disappointment, and even rage. The more you try to get your partner to do what you want and need, the less he or she seems inclined to do so. Or maybe you're in the honeymoon stage of a relationship and want to know how to make the good feelings last.
Wherever you're at, research shows that certain ways of relating and being together can increase your chances of maintaining love and togetherness for the long haul. Being loving toward your partner, expressing affection and appreciation, and spending time together in activities that build intimacy can create the glue that holds your relationship together.
Following are 7 practical suggestions based on what researchers have found when they've studied happy couples.
1. Listen with an Open Mind and Heart
Unhappy couples don't listen to each other. Over time, they get into negative cycles of communication, such as criticize/defend, demand/withdraw, or attack-counterattack. The result is that nobody gets heard or understood; partners feel judged, criticized, or dismissed, rather than affirmed; and there is no buildup of good will. Happy couples are more present with each other and make an effort to listen and take each other’s needs seriously. They make an effort to validate each other—communicating that a partner's perspective is understandable and valid, given their personal history or current circumstances. This creates a sense of being on the same side and having each other's backs.
2. Strive to Build Intimacy
Unhappy couples may seem almost like roommates. There is an emotional distance and lack of intimacy, with communication focused on mundane aspects of life like picking up the kids and running errands. A sense of being attractive and desirable to your partner gets lost. Further, unhappy couples may communicate mostly by fighting and arguing, by making sarcastic comments, or by pointedly ignoring each other. By contrast, happy couples prioritize emotional and physical intimacy, creating a positive, self-reinforcing cycle. They make time for each other, even if it's just a few minutes, by having greeting rituals when they leave and enter the house; hugging; and checking in with each other during the day in person or via text or e-mail. Happy couples express affection and appreciation often in words or gestures.
3. Repair Fights
Unhappy couples don’t resolve conflict. Arguments turn into ongoing hostility or a silent treatment that can go on for days. By contrast, happy couples tend to reach out to each other after fighting to show they still care, even if the issue isn’t fully resolved. Reaching out can be speaking in an affectionate tone of voice, making a positive comment, using humor, smiling, suggesting doing a fun or relaxing activity together, apologizing, or indicating understanding of the others’ perspectives. Repair attempts help your partner calm down and see the bigger picture. And then fights are seen as just temporary rifts, not chasms in the relationship!
4. Act Courteously
Unhappy couples don’t exhibit courtesy and sensitivity in the way they treat each other. By contrast, happy couples communicate a basic respect and warmth for each other, in lots of small ways, every day. They may hug goodbye, bring each other coffee, or offer to help each other out. They treat their partner respectfully in front of other people, even when they are angry. Happy couples also don’t engage in character assassination. They stick to the issue at hand, and don’t bring up every unpleasant thing their partner ever did. They don’t use negative labels or name-calling, and they give their partner the benefit of the doubt and assume goodwill.
5. Have a Sense of Partnership
Individuals in unhappy couples don’t consider how their decisions are going to affect their partners, or they may hide important information from their partners to avoid a fight. This creates problems with trust. In happy couples, people act like partners. They put the relationship and family first most of the time, even if they have to sacrifice some things they may enjoy as an individual. They check with each other before making big purchases or plans with extended family. They allow their partner’s wishes and needs to influence them, rather than digging in their heels."
By: Daniel R. George, Ph.D., M.Sc. | July 7, 2022
"This post is authored by Mariam Shalaby, a 4th-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine"
"It is a tumultuous time in the U.S.—politically and socially—and many of us in the field of mental health are additionally tasked with the responsibility of caring for the emotional needs of others. This can be taxing, even for someone like myself who is a medical student training in psychiatry. What are practical steps we can take to maintain a productive and caring presence amidst national turmoil?
A day in the life of a mental health trainee
As a fourth-year medical student, I spend a month at a time training in different locations. Recently, I have been training at the local psychiatric hospital, where patients are cared for when their mental illness leads them to be at risk of harm to themselves and/or others, or unable to care for themselves.
Waking up on a recent Wednesday morning, the first thing did was check my phone. Texts from loved ones working through personal problems flooded my screen. I sent a quick reply — “Thinking of you” — before switching apps to scroll through cute cat videos interspersed with passionate 30-second video clips about baby formula shortages and another school shooting. I clicked my phone screen off before taking a deep breath and getting ready for the day.
Driving to the hospital, I noticed the fluffy clouds and the blue sky above me. It was a pretty June day—a peaceful morning. Merging onto the highway, I noticed the car in front of me. Pink paint emblazoned on its trunk exclaimed: “PAWS OFF ABORTION! STOP CONTROLLING WOMEN.” My chest tightened.
I walked into the hospital and sat down for rounds, which is when the team meets with every patient to talk about how they’ve been and discuss their treatment plan. We interviewed eight patients in a row. When I asked one patient what led her to attempt suicide, she looked at me in the eye and said, matter-of-factly, “I was sexually abused by my father as a child, I have struggled with cocaine use for many years, and I am dealing with unresolved grief from the loss of my husband due to overdose.” I gulped, and said, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Inside, I panicked: What is going on, and how are we going to fix it?
Finally, we finished rounds. I took a break for lunch at the neighborhood Italian bakery and noticed an enormous plywood sign in front of one of the houses across the street: “FROM IRELAND TO PALESTINE, OCCUPATION IS A CRIME” it screamed at me in black spray paint. I took a deep breath and tried to notice the taste of my pizza and the sound of the birds. The time passed too quickly, and soon it was time to return to work.
When I finally arrived home at the end of the day, I felt drained. I had little energy to do anything at all. And it was only four o’clock; I had gotten home early. I resorted to looking at my phone, and found myself once again watching silly videos that left me feeling just as tired as when I got home.
I’m grateful that, like many other professional Americans, my basic needs for food, water, and safety are met. And I’m grateful to serve in a role that helps others find stability in their lives. But these days, a sense of vigilance and worry often consumes me. Many of us wake up daily to an overstimulating digital atmosphere, a turbulent sociopolitical landscape, and an emotionally taxing job. I walked through the day on edge, alert for threat.
While there are practical ways of responding to outside threats to our senses of security and calm, such as participating in activism about causes we care about and doing our best to care for patients, addressing inner sensations of stress in response to those threats isn’t always so clear. Simply telling myself to “calm down” doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried. That said, here are a few things that I have found to be helpful:
By Holly Lebowitz Rossi | Updated on June 1, 2022
"1. Involve Everyone
When the whole family is involved in planning fun activities, you'll have more opportunities to experience special moments. "Family glue" is what Pat Tanner Nelson, professor of Human Development & Family Studies at University of Delaware, calls those moments that connect your family and build deep, healthy relationships. "Spending time together as a family takes planning, but it's a good investment," Nelson says. "When children feel close to their parents, they try harder to please them and make them proud, which then makes the whole family stronger." It doesn't have to be complicated—with a little bit of effort, you can turn bonding into a lifetime of funny, sweet stories and lasting memories.
2. Plant a Family Garden
Encourage everyone to get their hands dirty by digging a patch to plant flowers or vegetables in the backyard. Tuck tender seedlings into the ground and watch them grow and blossom—like your kids are doing every day. As they witness green shoots turn into stunning plants, your whole family will gain a new respect for the natural world, all while learning patience and perseverance as you divvy up the tasks of keeping the garden weed-free, well-watered, and strong. And if someone squeals upon discovering a squirmy garden worm? That's a hilarious family moment for the scrapbook!
3. Plan a Family Vacation Together
You can set the budget and a suggest geographically convenient location but let your kids research attractions, coordinate travel times, and check the weather forecast. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic, for example, you might suggest Colonial Williamsburg, and your children's itinerary could include an archaeological dig, meeting farm animals at the Peyton Randolph Yard, viewing 19th-century toys at the Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, and kid-centric tours of the former capital and royal governor's palace. They'll feel proud, trusted, and independent as they take on a leadership role in the family, and you'll be proud to spend a wonderful day together with the children at the helm.
4. Conduct Family Interviews
Members of your family's older generations, like grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles, have many fascinating stories of growing up in different eras. Have your kids ask them what life was like in yesteryear and use a voice, or video recorder to capture their tales, voices, and expressions. Then turn the microphone around and encourage older family members to take turns interviewing someone, including the kids. By collecting personal anecdotes and memories, you'll have a time capsule of family history. As kids learn about their heritage, they can start thinking about their own legacies. Transcribe the interviews to create a book or digital file of photos for a slideshow to accompany the interviews.
5. Plan a Family Photoshoot
There's no better way to make and preserve family memories than by planning a family photoshoot. You can schedule a portrait session at a local studio, but to capture those real candid moments that will make you smile when looking back on them, seek out a photographer with a photo-journalistic style who knows how to handle kids during lifestyle shoots. If you're shooting in your neighborhood, pick a spot for the shoot that your family already loves, like a local park or playground.
Another option is to book a photographer while on vacation to capture your family's adventure. That's right: You can get the whole family into a good picture, no selfie stick required! To find a great photographer out of town we suggest using Flytographer's booking service— they work with photographers in more than 250 destinations who can help direct your photoshoot to get real smiles from you and your kids. Book an hour session to capture a family of 4 in two locations in your vacation town. [Use the code Parents25 for $25 off your shoot, Flytographer.com]
6. Cook (and Eat) a Family Meal
The benefits of eating dinner as family are multifold. Studies show that kids who dine frequently with their parents have improved academic performance, increased self-esteem, and a reduced risk of obesity. Regular dinnertime conversations are also linked with more open communication between kids and parents.
"The more you can get into the habit of really listening to your kids and having these conversations from early ages, the more likely it is that kids are going to talk to their parents in adolescence about issues that are troubling them," says Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist and the author of The Parents We Mean to Be. Start with a collection of recipes and then assign everyone an age-appropriate job (no knives for toddlers!). Get creative with ingredients and techniques to forge delicious memories."
"If you were warned that a perfect day at the beach would end with you soaking wet and miserable, under dark storm clouds, would you still pack your bag and go?No one expects perfection to end in gloomy weather—especially when it comes to love.
Love stories gone bad can be addicting. I have a growing to-do-list and a neglected pile of laundry to prove it. The infamous Amber Heard and Johnny Depp defamation trial has left many people around the world hypnotized by testimony warning us about the dangers of entertaining toxic love too long.
In over 27 years as a therapist and mental health educator, I have not seen anything tie human beings into more complex knots than love turned ugly.
A former client stated, "I'm a shell of what I used to be. I'm fighting to get back to normal." He talked about his divorce as if it were as fresh as farmer’s market organic milk. Surprisingly the divorce had happened over seven years ago. Yet he was still having flashbacks about the emotional abuse that took place in the relationship and problems sleeping some nights. He commented, " Sheila, I follow her on social media. She is living with this guy and looks no worse for the wear. I haven't been right since it ended."
I invited him to step into a deeper level of healing during several therapy sessions. He confronted himself and acknowledged there were a number of signs that pointed to a doomed relationship from the start. He recalled, "She had a nasty temper and could ignore me for days without flinching. I suffered when we fought. It bothered me when we did not talk. She seemed to revel in the dysfunction."
When I asked him why he ignored what was happening, his answer made sense—in a dimly lit way. He shared, "She had a sweet side and I wanted things to work out."
The desire to see a relationship work out despite clear signs that it may not leads many people to turn a blind eye to information that could be the difference between finding happiness or fleeing misery.
In nearly three decades of supporting men and women through healing journeys, brought on by the fallout of traumatic relationships, I’ve counseled individuals to be mindful of the five following behaviors that may predict a relationship will go dark:
1. Cheating early in the relationship. Cheating, particularly early on in a relationship, is an indication of poor boundary management and signals a lack of self-control. Looking the other way when your partner cheats is a form of reinforcing disrespectful behavior.
2. Taking no responsibility when the relationship derails. Relationships hit rough patches. When a partner says or does something that is hurtful to their significant other, the ability to say "I’m sorry" and assume responsibility for the injurious behavior is part of healthy communication and establishing trust. When someone lacks the ability to do this, he or she is announcing, "I can do what I want, and don’t expect me to apologize when I’m wrong." This relationship dynamic can be emotionally damaging because genuine healing is not possible absent trust and accountability.
3. Cruel fighting, that hits below the belt. Words are powerful and they can be almost as painful as physical injuries. I recall a former client sharing, “When we argue he brings up deeply painful and personal things I’ve shared about my past. He mocks me and makes jokes about my suffering.” Cruel fighters lead with the intention to use what they know to emotionally wound their partners. It’s a dangerous dynamic that can lead to long-lasting psychological scarring.
4. Abandonment in times of distress. Emotional security and grounding inside a relationship is made possible when you feel as though your partner has your back. Emotionally unavailable people often leave their partners to fend for themselves in times of distress, such as losing a job, the death of a loved, or illness. When cycles of abandonment continue unchecked, the relationship erodes and becomes toxic due to stress and high levels of resentment."
Susan Newman Ph.D. | Posted October 17, 2017
"Who hasn’t had her child-rearing choices questioned—by family, friends, your spouse, or a stranger? Who in your circle is most judgmental?
As a parent, you are subject to comment on a host of parenting decisions: Whether you decide to breastfeed or not; to co-sleep or not, go back to work or stay home with your children, what you let your children eat for breakfast; how you discipline or dress them, the bedtime you set or the time you allow or don’t on “screens”…Often, the “advice” or “suggestion” is completely unsolicited and makes you feel guilty or uncertain.
On social media, even benign parenting practices are subject to criticism. Unlike the rest of us, celebrities are publicly “mom-shamed” more frequently on the Internet. Mariah Carey received a wave of criticism for posting a photo of her 4-year-old son still using a pacifier. Several stars, from Mila Kunis to Chrissy Tiegen to Maggie Gyllenhaal, have been targeted online for breastfeeding in public. Actress Olivia Wilde was berated for posting a picture kissing her young son on the lips.
A new poll finds a majority of American mothers are being judged, some on the Internet, some in person. The University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital conducted a national poll surveying 475 mothers of children aged 5 and younger. They were asked if they’ve ever had their parenting questioned.
Sixty-one percent responded that they have been criticized for their child-rearing decisions. The most common topic of criticism: Discipline. Seventy percent of criticized moms reported this. The second-most-cited denunciation concerned diet and nutrition; the third, sleep; the fourth, breast versus bottle-feeding, fifth, child safety, and sixth, childcare decisions.
Although sometimes the criticism is intended to be constructive, 62 percent of those sampled said they believe mothers receive “a lot of unhelpful advice from other people”; 56 percent said mothers “get too much blame and not enough credit for their children’s behavior.”
Family More Likely to Judge
According to the study, family members comprised the top three groups of “mom shamers.” The moms who felt criticized said their own parents (37 percent), co-parent (36 percent) and in-laws (31 percent) were the most frequent to pass judgment. “This may reflect the high volume of interactions with family members, or that mothers may interpret family criticism as an attack by those who should be more supportive,” the researchers noted.
Remarking on the stress and overwhelming choices of new parenthood, the study points out that 42 percent of the criticized mothers said the judgment “made them feel unsure about their parenting choices.” As a parent, you have the ultimate say—even if you’re conflicted about your choices.
10 Tips for Standing Up To Mom-Shaming
When it comes to standing up to those who judge you, it can be tricky to assert your parenting authority and keep conflicts at bay. Here are 10 insights and suggestions to help bolster you against those who believe they know what you should be doing and how to do it.
By Jeff Bogle and Karen Cicero | Updated on February 10, 2020
"Want to wow your big kid? From cities and swanky resorts to nature trails and national parks, these are the top family vacation destinations to hit while your children are still young.
Once your child stops needing a nap and a stroller, a world of new vacation possibilities awaits. But you have only so many school breaks before your kid flees the nest. Here, travel experts share their top iconic places you've just got to visit as a family while your children are still young, plus planning tips to ensure your kid has the best time ever.
#1 Paris Book the earliest ticket you can (usually 9 or 9:30 a.m.) to ascend to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Show up 90 minutes ahead of time to take pics at the base when it's relatively uncrowded. (Grab breakfast at a nearby café before returning close to your assigned time.) When you're done, walk along the Seine River to the Musée d'Orsay, an art museum in a former railway station. Kids who love ballet will delight in the paintings of Degas, while Dr. Who fans might recall the Van Gogh gallery that was featured in an episode. It may be a little mobbed, but it's still worth going to the Musée du Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and so much more. "If you have time, spending a day at the Palace of Versailles, a quick train ride from Paris, is wonderful," says Catherine McCord, author of Smoothie Project, who took her 8-year-old daughter to Paris. "Walk through the mazes before you go inside."
Feel like a local: Book a walking tour with a local guide to explore off-the-beaten-path areas. Look at GetYourGuide.com for options that focus on neighborhoods (like the Latin Quarter) and themes (such as vintage shopping, chocolate tastings, or secret passages).
#2 New York City
Reserve a ticket to visit the Statue of Liberty's crown—climb 377 steps to the top via a winding staircase—because same-date spots are rarely available. In Times Square, Broadway shows beckon—Wicked, The Lion King, and Aladdin are good picks for kids who haven't reached double digits (ask for the free "My First Broadway Show" sticker sheet at the theaters), while Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls, Beetlejuice, and Hadestown will enthrall high-schoolers. And head over to Central Park to sail remote-controlled boats and climb on the Alice in Wonderland statue, suggests Beth Beckman, founder of LittleKidBigCity.com.
Feel like a local: Venture outside of Manhattan! Beckman, who has a 7-year-old, suggests Brooklyn's Prospect Park for its catch-and-release fishing clinics and paddleboats.
Take a goofy selfie squeezed into a red telephone booth with your kid, while explaining that once upon a time people actually stood inside those things to make calls. "My kids were also amused by the black taxis and how the seating arrangements inside were so different from everywhere else," says Sajay Garcia, a travel blogger who posts YouTube travel videos at Growing Up Garcia. "The Changing of the Guard and the historic carriages near Buckingham Palace also kept my kids entertained."
Feel like a local: Sit alongside Londoners at the open-air theater in The Regent's Park. "Buy food from a neighborhood grocer and have a picnic at the park before the show," suggests Emily Goldfischer, an American mom of two living in London. "And if you're going to The British Museum, check out the adventure playground at nearby Coram's Fields," she says.
#4 St. Louis
Ride to the top of the Gateway Arch, then check out the renovated visitors' center. It houses America's largest terrazzo floor map, showing North America's historic rivers and trails, so you can trace pioneers' journeys to the West. (Sneak in that learning!) Burn off steam on the walking and biking trails along the banks of the Mississippi River. Nearby, the new St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station features 80-plus sharks and stingrays in an exhibit that extends overhead.
Feel like a local: Head to City Museum, a playspace with more than two dozen slides constructed from repurposed materials. Even tweens who think they've outgrown playgrounds will have a blast. "My 9-year-old loved zipping down a ten-story spiral slide into a cave," says Brandon Billinger, who blogs at TheRookieDad.com.
#5 Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Great for kids who: Love dogs
As if it weren't already rad enough to learn how to stand-up paddleboard in Kawela Bay, where The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was filmed, Turtle Bay Resort gives kids a trained surf dog to keep them company on the board during their lesson. Afterward, they can make a TikTok with a centuries-old banyan tree in the background. Can you imagine the likes?"
By: Steven Ing MFT | June 7, 2022
"As children, we hated when our parents fought, when the ugliness of domestic conflicts boiled over into yelling, name-calling, door slamming and crying. For some of us, it got a lot worse than that. So it's perfectly understandable that, as children, we came to believe that conflict in a relationship was a problem to be avoided.
Later, in our adult lives, this experience from our earlier years translated into an active effort to avoid engaging in conflict with the ones we love.
You may have found yourself saying something like, "Can we not fight about it, please?" or "Let's never fight, okay?"
This may sound very appealing, to never fight and live in peace with the ones we love. However, the conclusions we came to as children might need a tweak or two.
The Truth About Conflict
As kids, many of us confused conflict, or fighting, with the abuse that accompanied it. We equated the notion of two people having a problem they needed to resolve with yelling, name-calling, crying, throwing objects, and, in some instances, hitting.
The fact that most everyone confuses conflict with abuse is rather obvious because we see conflict become abusive in business, politics, religion, and, of course, relationships. This leads many of us to conclude that the real problem is conflict, but it's not.
Abuse Is the Problem, Not Conflict
No matter how many times you may have witnessed or experienced conflict with abuse, the fact remains that other people have learned to engage in conflict without abuse. Instead of all that yelling, they have learned to confront one another in a way that allows them to address their issues with their loved ones, resolve them in a peaceful and respectable manner, and move on.
Now, you have to realize that, if they can do it, so can the rest of us.
Think About It
If you hate arguing, there are probably two reasons why:
This last idea refers to the fact that often, even two highly successful individuals, after forming a strategic alliance, suck at becoming an effective team. Upon encountering a problem, they are unable to resolve the problem that has each person unhappy. These two people don't technically suck as people; what sucks is their skill in resolving conflict.
Abuse Is Optional
Abuse, at the end of all the confusion, anger, and hurt, is optional. We can all learn to fight without being abusive to those we love.
Conflict resolution, or as I prefer to call it, "fair fighting," is a learned skill. We are not born knowing how to do it, but we can learn it and get better at it with practice.
If we want to have successful loving relationships and teach our children to do likewise, we have to learn how to fight fairly because conflict is an essential and inevitable part of every intimate relationship.
Recognize Your Patterns
To end the cycle of abuse in your relationships, you (and your partner) must first accept that conflict is an essential and inevitable part of every intimate relationship. Second, you (and your partner) must remove all abusive behaviors during conflict: yelling, door slamming, name-calling, eye-rolling, etc."
By Cassie Shortsleeve | May 20, 2022
"Ask any new birthing person about the realities of postpartum life or anyone post-menopausal about menopause and they'll usually say something along the lines of, "No one told me it was going to be like this."
There's a lot no one tells you about the way reproductive transitions impact mental health, say reproductive psychiatrists—doctors who specialize in the historically siloed field of mental health throughout the reproductive cycle, from adolescence through menopause.
People have long experienced reproductive transitions and the symptoms and conditions that come with those shifts—like postpartum depression (PPD), for example—but the medical community has not known much about them until recently. While the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has dozens of textbooks on all kinds of psychiatric topics, there has been no comprehensive textbook in reproductive psychiatry—until now.
In December, thanks to a volunteer effort by 80 authors from more than 30 different institutions around the country, the APA put forth a textbook: Textbook of Women's Reproductive Mental Health.
In the authors' words, it's "the first comprehensive text for understanding, diagnosing, and supporting the unique mental health needs of women and others who undergo female reproductive transitions during their entire reproductive life cycle."
Lucy Hutner, M.D., a reproductive psychiatrist in New York and one of the book's co-editors adds: "It's a flag-on-the-moon moment for women's mental health."
After all, when she was training to be a doctor, she was told that the field that she specializes in today didn't exist. As recently as the 1980s, doctors and research studies alike suggested falsehoods such as the idea that mood is protected in pregnancy or that "without exception" psychological changes after having a baby were positive.
It's ironic, Dr. Hutner says, considering that postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth. But when you have patients with symptoms of diseases that exist and a field that doesn't, it's more than just ironic; it's detrimental to the overall health and wellbeing of that population. A lack of legitimacy perpetuates shame, misinformation, silence, and stigma.
"This medical textbook is almost symbolically more important than anything else," says Dr. Hutner. "It sort of says, 'Hey, this is as important as any other aspect of medicine.' It validates people's voices. It says, 'We don't need to have this stigma anymore. We're done.'"
The Messy World of Reproductive Mental Health
There's nothing non-existent or niche about reproductive psychiatry. But today, if you find yourself with something like PPD or postpartum anxiety (PPA), one of your first touchpoints with the medical system is likely your six- or eight-week follow-up appointment with your OB-GYN or a few trips to the pediatrician.
If you're lucky, you might land in the office of someone like Dr. Hutner for specialized treatment. But too often new moms wind up in an OB-GYNs offices crying and reporting their symptoms with little to no guidance.
Just as this setup fails patients, it fails providers trying to care for those patients, too. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), for example, recommends mental health screening at least once in the perinatal period. But as Dr. Hutner puts it, OBs may not always know what to do with positive screens, or may not know how to treat crying patients.
"The training, education, and dialogue around reproductive mental health have been ad hoc. There hasn't really been a standardized way of approaching it," says Dr. Hutner.
In short: Some physicians have training; some don't. Some are great at providing resources or spotting symptoms; some aren't. There are also big issues including systemic racism in medicine, as well as lack of awareness of queer health issues. This leads to a lot of patients who inadvertently wind up feeling invalidated and alone, without treatment.
Looking Ahead at Reproductive Mental Health
Most people recognize the importance of reproductive mental health, and doctors in training are eager to learn more about it. Lauren M. Osborne, M.D., one of the co-editors of the textbook and the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Women's Reproductive Mental Health, has piloted a new curriculum designed to educate medical trainees in the field. She asked budding psychiatrists to rank six subspecialties of psychiatry—including reproductive psychiatry along with five officially recognized fields. Doctors ranked reproductive psychiatry in the top half, consistently outranking other specialties that are deemed essential knowledge for independent practice and board certification.
Yet because reproductive psychiatry isn't yet an official subspecialty of psychiatry, it currently lacks government funding for more post-graduate fellowship programs. And learning about widespread problems such as postpartum depression is elective, not a requirement. This contributes to a lack of faculty to teach reproductive mental health and a lack of providers to treat it."
By: Carla Shuman Ph.D | May 13, 2022
"May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As I thought about what to write to promote mental health and resilience, there was no shortage of topics to consider: We are living in turbulent times with a great deal of uncertainty about our personal futures and the future of the world around us. So I decided to write something that would encourage people to take care of themselves and to think about what mental health looks like for them. After all, we struggle with different challenges depending on our circumstances, our relationships, and our desires. We are all fighting different battles at different times in our lives.
However, there are ways we can take care of our mental health that we share in common. Doing these things will help you stay focused on staying mentally healthy, strong, and resilient.
1. Identify what is within your control and what you can change.
Many of us tend to focus on what is hard, what we cannot change, and what holds us back. This can quickly become discouraging. We can get stuck in the trenches of despair when we focus on what isn’t possible and why we can’t do certain things.
In contrast, identifying what we can control makes us feel empowered. We begin to believe in ourselves and realize that there are things we can do to make our lives better, have better relationships, and take care of our needs.
2. Keep cynical thoughts to a minimum.
While sarcasm can certainly have a place as a means of coping with life‘s disappointments, too much sarcastic humor can lead to a cynical attitude as our default. We can then get stuck believing that things will never change and that the world is out to get us. That does not lead to an optimistic viewpoint or to the resilience we need to stay grounded and focused on living our best life. Catch yourself in cynical mode and remind yourself that it isn’t useful as an everyday coping tool.
3. Identify the people in your life who don’t belong there.
There are some people who treat us badly, bring us down emotionally, and sometimes even convince us that we can’t achieve our goals or be our best. Focusing on what those people say and do and letting them get the best of us until it reaches a point that we are stuck can be toxic for our mental health. It’s our responsibility to identify bad relationships and then to break free and move forward, not to continue to dwell on what they have done.
At the end of the day, it’s up to us to make our own decisions and to create our own paths. Those who love and accept us for who we are will follow us and provide their support and encouragement.
4. Surround yourself with like-minded people who are making their best effort to live a good life.
Everyone is influenced by the people in their lives. Our friends, family members, coworkers, and significant others affect our worldview. Behavior patterns and moods can be contagious, whether they are positive or negative.
Prioritize time with people who make you feel good and encourage your dreams. Spending too much time with people who are critical or who constantly question your choices and your motives may decrease your self-confidence and make you question your decisions. Being around people who are optimistic, responsible, and who take action on their own goals is inspiring. Their behavior will encourage you to be proactive, and you can support each other in living a good life and taking care of yourselves.
As we walk through life, we will have varying degrees of social support and encouragement from others. There may be times when we do not have as much support, and that’s when we have to be our own best advocates. Recognize if you are being treated unkindly or unfairly, and be assertive in making your concerns or needs known.
Sometimes, other people are not aware of how they are affecting us, and their negative influence is not intentional. So we don’t want to draw assumptions about others until we talk to them about what’s going on. Similarly, if we feel as though the way we are treated is creating difficulty for us or has affected our quality of life, we have to communicate so that we can be heard and understood. Sometimes, self-advocacy is as simple as making a request or a desire known to others."
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!"