A Visit to the Hospital Reminds Me of How Happy I Am to Be Healthy

A Visit to the Hospital Reminds Me of How Happy I Am to Be Healthy.Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: gratitude is a key ingredient to a happy life.

Research shows that people who cultivate gratitude get a boost in happiness and optimism, feel more connected to other people, are better-liked and have more friends, and are more likely to help others. They even sleep better and have fewer headaches.

Nevertheless, I find it… challenging to cultivate a grateful frame of mind.

I find it all too easy to fail to appreciate all the things I feel grateful for — from pervasive, basic things like electricity and elevators, to  personal aspects of my life such as the fact that I get to collaborate with my sister on our podcast, to little passing joys like a funny thing my dog did. I get preoccupied with petty grievances and minor annoyances, and forget just how much happiness I already have.

One thing I forget to be grateful for? My health. For many of us, health — like money — contributes to happiness mostly in the negative; the lack of it brings much more unhappiness than possessing it brings happiness. It’s very easy to take money or health for granted — until it’s gone.

Yesterday my husband had surgery on his knee. Minor surgery, something many people have done, not risky, a very ordinary procedure, didn’t take long. But boy, the experience of setting foot in a hospital made me fervently, passionately, explosively grateful for my health.

Of course, I was also grateful for the good hospital, the insurance, the doctors and nurses, the relief from pain that my husband got, his uncomplicated recovery. So I was also very grateful for all that, too.

But most of all, I was reminded that I should never take good health for granted — my health, or anyone else’s. To be able to take a deep breath, to hear, to see, to walk, to eat, to be free from pain… it’s so precious.

Another positive consequence of gratitude? When we’re grateful, we tend to want to make sure that other people share in whatever we’re feeling grateful for. If I’m feeling grateful for the beauty of Central Park, it makes me think about how much I want other people also to be able to experience the beauty of a park.

Feeling grateful often spurs us to turn outward, to think about the situations of others. The trip to the hospital reminded me of the importance of health — for me, and for everyone. It made me think about insurance, medical care, availability (and of course habits, just about everything makes me think about habits) and what steps I can take in my own life, to help others have these building blocks of good health.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous story, “The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” (which includes the now well-known phrase “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”) Sherlock Holmes perceived a clue in the fact that a dog didn’t bark. I find it hard to be grateful for the problems that aren’t there. Today is a day that I don’t make a visit to the hospital — a happy day.

I’m also reminded of a hilarious scene from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. I’ve watched this scene a hundred times, and it makes me laugh every time. “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” It’s a cliche, because it’s true.

A good gratitude reminder.

Do you find it hard to remember to be grateful? Do you have any strategies to help prompt gratitude? People use gratitude journals, screen-saver reminders, photographs, and giving thanks before meals… what else?

I write about my own gratitude exercise in The Happiness Project.

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The Psych Central Show Podcast is a WEGO Health Award Winner

We are honored to be the winner of the 2017 WEGO Health Award in the Best in Show: Podcast category for our outstanding weekly podcast, The Psych Central Show, hosted by Gabe Howard and Vincent M. Wales.

We are humbled by this achievement for our podcast, which offers a candid chat on mental health and psychology topics. Congratulations to Gabe & Vincent for doing such excellent work each and every week!

Best in Show: Podcast awardEach week, Gabe and Vincent tackle a different issue surrounding mental illness and mental health in society. Sometimes they have guests (and in today’s episode, they even interview me talking about the psychology of conspiracy theories), but they always have fun — and, more importantly, a thoughtful take on mental health and psychological issues. They put an amazing amount of passion and thought into crafting of each episode.

Some recent topics on the show include:

The ability to reach so many people each week in a different, engaging medium like a podcast has been an eye-opening experience. We’ve learned a lot along the way, and hope we are making some small difference in the world through the show.

Here’s how WEGO Health describes their annual awards:

Every year we receive more and more deserving Patient Leader nominations in the WEGO Health Awards. This year we had almost 2,500 nominations and close to 30,000 endorsements! A huge thank you to all of the judges that helped comb through these fantastic nominees to award our 16 WEGO Health Award Winners this year.

Gabe Howard is an Associate Editor at Psych Central, and a professional speaker, writer, and activist living with severe bipolar and anxiety disorders. He also blogs with us regularly here at World of Psychology. Vincent M. Wales has worn many hats over the years, including writing instructor, essayist, Big Brother, freethought activist, wannabe rock star, and award-winning novelist. You can learn more about both of them here.

Here’s what Gabe Howard has to say about being a patient leader:

Congratulations to Gabe and Vincent for their outstanding work! The best way to experience their work is by subscribing today to the podcast:

Listen on Google Play MusicHear us on Stitcher

Here are all of this year’s WEGO Health Award winners. We congratulate our fellow winners and finalists in the list as well, as there are some simply amazing individuals who were nominated this year (as in years past). I encourage you to explore the list and check out other patients’ podcasts, blogs, and more.

Learn more about The Psych Central Show here.

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Meditation’s Effects May Differ by Type of Practice

A growing body of research suggests meditation can positively impact our health and wellbeing. But are all forms of mindfulness practice equally beneficial? In groundbreaking research, a team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany reveal that mental training geared toward attention, compassion, or perspective taking each affect the brain, body and behavior in different ways.

The terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” are often used interchangeably, but different practices are known to emphasize cultivating unique abilities such as attention, compassion, and social skills. To date, research has yet to show whether changes in brain structure, stress physiology, attention and social behavior vary by the type of mindfulness training received.

To answer this question, a team of researchers embarked on a large-scale study of the effects of 3-months of different types of mindfulness training. Each of the training types emphasized a different skill: attention (Presence), compassion (Affect), and social intelligence (Perspective). Each training began with a 3-day intensive retreat, followed by weekly group instruction, and daily home practice that was supported by a custom-made online platform and smartphone apps.

A totally of 322 healthy adults (197 women) between the ages of 20 and 55 years were recruited and assigned to participate in 1 of 4 groups. Group 1 and 2 participants began with Presence training. Group 1 then received Affect and Perspective instruction. Group 2 received identical training in the reverse order. Group 3 underwent only 3 months of Affect training, and group 4 received no instruction. Participants from all groups all underwent fMRI brain imaging, and completed tests of attention of social function at the end of each training.

Presence, Affect, and Perspective: Three skills emphasized in various mindful practices

  • The Presence instruction emphasized attention and introspective awareness. Core practices included breathing meditation and body scan exercises, as well as walking meditation, and practices designed to heighten attentiveness to vision, sound, or taste.
  • The Affect session focused on loving-kindness meditation, and dyadic interaction. Loving kindness practices involved fostering loving feelings toward a benefactor, self, and others, and using phrases such as “May you be healthy,” “May you be safe,” and “May you live with ease.” Pairs of participants also performed face-to-face, in-person, and video-supported exercises during which they examined difficult situations, and practiced acceptance, compassion, and empathic listening.
  • The Perspective training accentuated observing one’s thoughts during meditation, and engaging in perspective taking with another person. Observation practices entailed labeling mental events such as thinking, and judging, categorizing thoughts into opposing domains (e.g. self/other, positive/negative), and monitoring the comings and goings of thoughts. Pairs of participants also performed exercises where they were asked to view an experience from the perspective of another person, and to reflect on how their thoughts differed from others.

Results from brain imaging confirmed that changes in brain structure were directly related to the form of mental training practiced. Immediately following 3 months of Presence training (breathing practices and body scans, etc), participants showed significantly greater thickness in the anterior prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, both of which are associated with attention and executive function. Performance on computer-based tasks that measure attention and executive function also increased. Notably, changes in social domains such as compassion and perspective-taking were not detected following Presence training.

Affect and Perspective instruction both focused on social behaviors, the first targeting emotion, and the second social cognition. Immediately following Affect training (loving-kindness, dyadic interaction), participants showed significant changes in cortical thickness from the brain’s right insula to the temporal pole; regions previously linked with empathy, compassion and emotion regulation. These changes correlated with participant’s enhanced compassion ratings.

Results of this study indicate that the type of mindfulness instruction may matter.

Following the Perspective instruction (observing one’s thoughts, perspective taking with others), adults showed significantly increased cortical thickness in the brain’s left parietal regions, which are associated with perspective taking and Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind refers to a person’s ability to differentiate between his or her beliefs and those of others, and to appreciate that others may hold a different perspective. Brain changes at the end of the Perspective instruction were related to better performance on tasks measuring perspective taking.

The relationship between the form of training and physiological and psychological stress also differed by practice type. Only the practices that focused on social competencies (Affect and Perspective) were linked to significant decreases in the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. This suggests that the daily discussion of an individual’s personal experience, even with a stranger, when met with empathic understanding and non-judgment, may be linked to a significant drop on physiological stress. Nevertheless, participants reported feeling less stressed after all 3 of the instruction types regardless of the order in which they were experienced.

Results of this study indicate that the type of mindfulness instruction may matter. Similar to findings from other disciplines suggesting that social, cognitive, or behavioral skills are not interchangeable, results of this study propose that distinct forms of mindfulness practice may have very different effects. Meditation may not, then, be a one-size-fits-all proposition.

These findings are groundbreaking in that they point to a biological basis for how capacities such as compassion, perspective taking, and other forms of social-emotional intelligence may be developed. Although this study was conducted with healthy adults, this opens up the possibility that specific forms of practice may be better suited to cultivating specific competencies, rather than assuming that forms of meditation and mental training have identical effects.


How the Brain Changes When You Meditate

Can Meditation Lead to Lasting Change?


The post Meditation’s Effects May Differ by Type of Practice appeared first on Mindful.

Source: https://www.mindful.org

NHS England proposes ban on alternative medicines; Pagans respond

UNITED KINGDOM — A petition has been circulating around UK-based Pagan websites calling on Parliament to act in the wake of a proposed plan by the National Health Service (NHSE) England to stop prescriptions for herbal, homeopathic and other alternative forms of medicine.


Up until now, the NHSE has prescribed herbal and homeopathic remedies for patients. For example, it is used for those those patients who suffer from severe side effects caused by pharmaceutical medicines or for patients who have experienced no improvement in their health from those medicines.

In the UK, treatment is free at the point of delivery, although patients have to pay a basic fee (£8.60 per item) for each prescription. This chosen route has not been without controversy historically speaking. In 2010, Tom Dolphin, a leading member of the British Medical Association described homeopathy as ‘witchcraft.’

The NHS system is partly funded by a National Insurance scheme, which British citizens pay into through wages.

While it is of course possible to take out private health insurance, the NHS was founded in order to provide for everyone, including the poorest and most marginalized members of society. The system has been extended in recent years to include some alternative treatments. Over the last 5 years, the NHSE has spent over £600,000 on homeopathic treatments.

However, as noted, there has been dissent based on the assertion that homeopathic remedies are not evidence based. Now, the NHSE is saying that prescribing homeopathic and herbal remedies is a ‘misuse of scarce funds.’ NHSE chief Simon Stevens commented that “at best homeopathy is a placebo.”  He said that “NHSE funds which could be better devoted to treatments that work.”

The NHSE includes 16 other treatments in the ban and is encouraging patients to buy over-the-counter remedies for complaints, such as indigestion and sore throats with the aim of saving approximately £250 million a year. The ban covers some 17 items, including herbal medicines, Omega-3 fatty acids, liniments, and travel vaccines.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs (general practitioners), said that reducing prescription costs was desirable, but warned that the more vulnerable members of society could be significantly affected.

Stokes-Lampard said, “If patients are in a position that they can afford to buy over the counter medicines and products, then we would encourage them to do so rather than request a prescription – but imposing blanket policies on GPs, that don’t take into account demographic differences across the country, or that don’t allow for flexibility for a patient’s individual circumstances, risks alienating the most vulnerable in society.”

Michael Marshall is the President of the Good Thinking Society, which has threatened to put the Department of Health up for a judicial review if it failed to blacklist homeopathic and herbal preparations. Marshall states:

This is very welcome news…Every credible medical body certainly knows that homeopathic remedies are just not effective for any conditions at all and it is great to see this strong statement from NHS England officially acknowledging the fact.

However, Cristal Sumner, chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association and the creator of the recent petition, says the NHS plans were “bad for its already overstretched budget and for patients.”

She has criticized the report used to draw up the new guidelines, commenting that, “This recommendation is not cost effective as patients will be prescribed more expensive conventional drugs in place of homeopathy, which defeats the object of the exercise.”

Don Redding, policy director at National Voices, an umbrella organization which covers 140 health care charities, including the British Heart Foundation, suggests that this is bringing charges in through the back door.

He believes that that those who are unable to pay will now be unable to obtain treatment. This, he says, violates the ‘free at the point of use’ principle which underpins the foundation of the NHS.

Alternative medicine is a topic of considerable interest within the Pagan community. However, Pagans appear to be divided on the issue.

Those who practice alternative forms of medicine are skeptical about the ban and have been publicizing the petition, while others have reservations about the evidence-basis of some alternative practices.

Concerns have also been raised about making rash and unsupported equivalences between different types of practices.

Helen Compton says, “My initial reaction to the ban, as a herbalist, is that they are incorrectly lumping us in with homeopaths, nothing wrong with homeopathy but herbalism is a very different healing modality. ”

“The intent behind this incorrect conflation seems generally malign, to show herbal medicine as an ineffective waste of time,” Compton explains.

“Also, seems that it doesn’t make clear that herbal medicine largely isn’t available on the NHS, the ban concerns things like senna etc. It is limiting patient choice of generally safe and cheap medicines, not logical and I sense the hand of large pharmaceutical companies somewhere behind this.”

However, not all Pagans are critical of the ban, with some calling for tighter controls on alternative medicine and more extensive use of peer review.

Herbalist Helen Maria says, “unless they’ve been properly trained doctors are not qualified to prescribe herbs. It is not symptomatic prescribing like pharmaceutical drugs.”

Maria goes on to further explain, “[Herbalism] is individualistic and looking at the root cause. It is not really possible to go nettle = eczema because the cause of everyone’s eczema is different. Therefore I’m sort of happy they’re not doing it. On the other hand this smacks of further marginalising, and discrediting other healing modalities.”

There is a general consensus, however, that the ban is part of a move to induce patients to pay for a greater range of over-the-counter remedies, which is in turn an aspect of the funding crisis currently experienced by the British National Health Service.

The online petition, which has now reached over 16,000 signatures, will be open to signatures through March 13, 2018.

Source: http://wildhunt.org

Getting to the Root of Your Anxiety

One of Rachel Dubrow’s clients was anxious about a big presentation at work. It wasn’t because she was worried about speaking in front of her boss and colleagues. It wasn’t because she was worried about doing a good job.

She was afraid that she’d be judged for not having straight teeth. (Instead of discussing public speaking anxiety, she and Dubrow explored her self-image and others’ perceptions.)

Another client of Dubrow’s insisted on completing all his work before leaving the office, which meant that he stayed late. Every single day. He wanted his performance reviews to exceed expectations. This stemmed “from his childhood when his parents told him that in order to be happy, he needed to clean his room, put away his toys, do his laundry, and do the dishes just like they did before bed each night,” said Dubrow, LCSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in helping people who feel buried under ongoing anxiety, stress, relationship issues and depression.

Psychotherapist Lila Braida, LMFT, was seeing a client who was having anxiety about keeping her dog safe in the yard. Even though she knew her fear was unfounded, she didn’t feel any better.

After digging deeper, she and Braida identified the root of her anxiety: “She was preparing to pursue a second pregnancy after life-threatening health issues had come up during her first,” said Braida, who practices holistic counseling psychology in Napa, Calif. “She had not had any sense of control over that situation, and it became clear that staying hyper-vigilant over her dog’s health was a way for her to maintain at least a small area of safety and control in her household.”

With other clients, Braida also has witnessed how much of their social anxiety stems from their own sense of self. “Our ideas of ourselves as ‘overbearing,’ or ‘not good enough,’ can lead to an experience of social disconnect, where we aren’t comfortable being ourselves in relation to someone, unless we are compensating for our perceived shortcomings.”

Maybe we compensate by going out of our way to seem non-confrontational (because we fear that others will think we’re too much). Maybe we compensate by people pleasing or caring for others (because we think people won’t accept us if we don’t; a lesson we learned in our childhoods).

“That constant effort to be different from who we naturally are leads to stress and anxiety in social settings,” Braida said. “[A]nd it’s easy to see how someone could begin avoiding those settings over time when they associate them with feelings of stress.”

Braida also has seen clients experience tremendous anxiety over keeping their homes spotless or proving themselves at work—because they were in the midst of redefining their identity. Because they’ve become new parents or recently divorced or experienced some other major change in their lives, shaking up their status quo.

Our anxiety often has a root cause. Maybe you get anxious at work because you don’t trust yourself to excel, to succeed. Maybe you get anxious over final exams because you don’t think you’re capable. You don’t believe in yourself. Maybe you grew up in a home where independence was lauded and expected, so asking for help—at home or at work—terrifies you. So you try to do it all—even when you’re crumbling.

“Finding the root cause of anxiety is tricky because it can creep up on us,” Dubrow said. “We might start feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, unable to focus, or not able to fall asleep at night because we are thinking about so many things.” This leads us to focus on the physical symptoms and sensations of anxiety and to overlook the psychological ones, to not explore any further. It can lead us to focus on techniques to reduce our anxiety—deep breathing, meditation, yoga—without really understanding what’s going on, without addressing the real issue.

To dig deeper, Dubrow suggested asking ourselves these questions: “How long has it been since I felt differently than I do now? What has changed in my life over the last 3 months, 6 months, or year? Are there other times in my life, past or present, where I felt the same way but the situation was different? If yes, what are they and is there a common thread?”

When she starts feeling anxious, Braida also pauses and turns inward. “…I compassionately check in with my emotional state.” She gently asks herself: Why am I so freaked out? What is this really about? And she listens for the answer—without judging herself.

Anxiety is complicated. There may be layers upon layers to unpack. There may be surprising causes—like Dubrow’s client and her insecurity about her teeth, like Braida’s client and her hunger for control where it didn’t exist. Seeing a therapist is always a good idea—and so is journaling about your anxiety. So is compassionately exploring what lies beneath the shakiness, sweaty palms, tight shoulders and butterfly-filled stomach. Because getting to the root can help us to genuinely diminish the anxiety—and better understand ourselves.

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Podcast: Why Do People Believe Conspiracy Theories?


In this episode of the Psych Central Show, hosts Gabe Howard and Vincent M. Wales discuss conspiracy theories with guest Dr. John Grohol, founder of Psych Central. Dr. Grohol explains what exactly is meant by “conspiracy theory” and where they come from. Discussion includes questions of whether they are ways for people to rationalize why horrific tragedies occur, if they are based on distrust of authority figures, and if those who believe them are just attention seekers. Ultimately, the question is raised of how to address them. Can we convince believers that they’re wrong and, if so, how do we do so?

Conspiracy Theory Show Highlights:

“Our minds seek out a rationale…something that will help put a horrible event or tragedy into some sort of perspective.” ~ John Grohol

[1:05]               What is a conspiracy theory and where do they come from?

[2:19]               Are conspiracy theories just a way to “make sense” of horrific tragedies?

[6:50]               What’s the connection between conspiracy theories and distrust of authority?

[8:44]               Are believers really just attention seekers?

[12:12]             The role of cognitive bias in the belief of conspiracy theories.

[13:01]             Are conspiracy theories invented just to mess with people?

[14:15]             How do we convince believers in conspiracy theories that they’re wrong?

Proud Sponsor of The Psych Central Show

About Our Guest

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. is the founder & CEO of PsychCentral.com, a mental health and human behavior/technology expert, co-author of Self-Help That Works (Oxford University Press, 2013), the author of The Insider’s Guide to Mental Health Resources Online, and is a published researcher. He sits on the scientific board of the journal, Computers in Human Behavior and was previously on the editorial boards of CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking and the Journal of Medical Internet Research. He is a founding board member and current treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine, and sits on the board of the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression. He currently oversees PsychCentral.com, the world’s leading mental health resource offering information and support groups to over seven million people each month.


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About The Psych Central Show Podcast Hosts


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



Vincent M. Wales
 is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. In addition to co-hosting The Psych Central Show, Vincent is the author of several award-winning novels and the creator of costumed hero Dynamistress. Visit his websites at http://ift.tt/2fH3c3L and www.dynamistress.com.



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Why We Feel the Need to Explain Ourselves and Justify Our Choices

“You are responsible for your intention, not your reception.” ~Amy E. Smith

I’ve realized that I put a lot of energy into trying to explain my decisions. Sometimes those explanations are an honest attempt to connect with another person or to step a little further out of hiding. Often, they are a result of my own self-doubt and desire for people to like me.

For example, I feel an obligation to say yes to any invitation or request I receive. Sometimes I’m glad to agree, other times I’d prefer to do something else. It gets tricky when the thing I’d prefer to do seems unimportant.

Wanting a quiet night at home doesn’t seem like a valid reason to decline an invitation to go out. So I come up with all the reasons I can’t go—I’m exhausted and maybe feeling a little sick and I have a lot I need to get done the next day and… and… and…

For some reason, “because someone asked” is a sufficient reason to say yes, but in order to say no I feel I have to prove that I have an abundance of important and inescapable circumstances getting in the way.

Recently I had a conversation that prompted me to think more deeply about when, how, and why I choose to explain myself to others. I was explaining my choice, but for very different reasons.

I had decided to step down from a leading a discussion group and agreed to meet with the woman who would have to find my replacement. I didn’t have to explain why I was leaving. I could have given a generic reason or declined to give any reason at all.

Instead, I chose to offer a fuller explanation. I was quitting because I felt like I had to hide part of myself in order to meet the expectations of the role. I didn’t want to keep hiding who I was and, for me, an important piece of being more visible was offering an honest explanation of why I was leaving.

In this instance, explaining wasn’t about caretaking her feelings or making sure she would still like me. It was about saying what I really thought and felt instead of letting her continue to think I was who she imagined me to be. Even if she didn’t understand or was disappointed in me, I wanted to be seen.

We offer (or don’t) an explanation of our choices for a variety of reasons. We can be motivated by fear, guilt, or self-doubt. We can also be honoring ourselves and others.

There isn’t a straightforward answer to the question of how much to explain and when. While there may be some truth to the idea that we don’t owe anyone an explanation, there are still plenty of situations when explaining is the right choice for us.

Becoming more aware of the reasons behind my urge to explain myself helps me make better choices about how much to share. Here are some motivations I’ve noticed. What would you add?

We’re trying to control the other person’s response.

It’s uncomfortable to be around someone who is angry or hurt or disappointed. If we’re giving someone information we fear they won’t like, it’s tempting to pile on explanations. We believe if we can give a compelling enough reason for our choice, we can ensure the other person will see things our way.

If we have a good enough excuse for declining their invitation, then maybe they won’t take it personally and be hurt. If we have enough solid reasons for our choice, maybe they won’t be mad that we didn’t follow their advice.

Maybe if we can make them understand, then they will still like us.

We’re trying to ease our own feeling of guilt.

Choosing something another person might not like can prompt feelings of guilt in us. When we feel guilty about our decision, we often turn to explanations and excuses to convince the other person and ourselves that we have a very good reason for choosing the way we did.

Many of us believe, whether we realize it or not, that other people’s wants, needs, and feelings are more important than our own. We believe saying no or declining an invitation is selfish or rude. We think that in order to be kind, generous, and likable we have to be unfailingly agreeable and accommodating.

We’re insecure about our own choices and want the other person to validate our decision.

No matter what we decide, there will likely be someone who doesn’t agree with our decision. It doesn’t matter if the choice is around career, education, parenting, wardrobe, reading material, cleaning supplies, diet, or paint color. While it doesn’t feel great to have people disagree with us, we’re less impacted by their opinion if we are confident about our own choices.

On the other hand, if we are unsure about our decision, we often look to others for reassurance. We over-explain in the hope that the other person will understand and come around to our point of view. Often, it’s not really about the other person changing their mind as much as it is about needing external approval for our own choices.

We want to foster a closer, more open connection with the other person.

Sometimes we choose to honestly share what’s going on for us with the people we care about most. We take the time to be clear about our reasons and intentions in order to increase depth and authenticity in our relationship.

In this instance, we are not as concerned about making someone see things our way. We’re trusting them to support us whether they agree with our decision or not. Our explanation is not a form of persuasion or manipulation but a sign of respect and a chance for the other person to get to know us better.

We have been hiding.

Some of us have a habit of staying silent in order to not disrupt others’ good opinion of us. If we stay quiet, others will often fill in the blanks about who we are with their idea of who they think we should be. It can feel safer to let them think they know us—they might not like us if we share more of who we really are.

But there are times when the divide between who we are and how others see us becomes too great and we’re no longer content to stay hidden. We may be tired of feeling disconnected and unseen or want to practice more visibility and integrity.

As we take steps toward greater visibility, people may pushback against the change. We might try to explain for one of the reasons above—to try to ensure they’ll understand and still like us. We might, instead, decide to be open and honest about who we are and where we are, whether or not anyone else understands.

So how do we know when and how much to explain? Every situation is different and there’s not an answer that’s always right. Taking a closer look at the reasons behind my urge to explain is key but identifying our real intentions can be a challenge. The following questions can help us explore our motivations from a few different angles.

How will I respond if they don’t like my explanation?

How we are impacted by the possibility of an unfavorable response can give us a clue about our motivations for explaining. Imagine the other person disagreeing with your explanation. What will you do?

Will you rush to explain again, more thoroughly and clearly? Will you feel guilty and change your mind? Will you be proud of yourself for being honest whether or not you would be understood?

As a note, the emotions you experience about their response don’t necessarily indicate that what you chose is right or wrong. You can feel sad, frustrated, or hurt by the other person’s response while also feeling proud of your decision and the way you handled yourself.

What does it mean about me if they don’t agree with my decision?

This is where we can gain insight into some of our biggest fears. If we believe their disagreement means something bad about us, we might feel compelled to explain why they should see things our way—even if it means exaggerating or only telling part of the truth.

If, on the other hand, we can see that their disagreement doesn’t necessarily indicate whether our decision was right or wrong, then we can be more confident that any explanations we choose to give are motivated by connection or respect.

What do I hope my explanation will accomplish?

Whether you’re hoping for deeper connection and understanding, to avoid something you don’t want to do, or to win approval, getting clear about your goal will help you understand your reason for explaining.

Are you looking for reassurance about your decision? Do you need to step into greater visibility? Are you trying to decline an invitation without hurting anyone’s feelings?

Try to look below the surface answer. For example, if you hope your explanation will change someone’s mind, asking yourself why that’s important to you may reveal another motivation.

What if the situation were reversed?

How would you feel if the person you invited assumed they needed to make up lots of excuses to keep you from getting upset with them for declining? What if someone was hiding their opinions and preferences and needs in deference to yours? What if they depended on you to validate their ideas when they couldn’t trust themselves?

We tend to hold ourselves to a different standard. Switching roles can help shake up our assumptions and give us an opportunity to treat others as we would like to be treated.

So what do we do?

Explaining doesn’t come with a set of rules, but here are a few thoughts that are helping me make choices about when and how to explain.

Get clear about your intention. Why do you really want to explain? Who do you want to be in this situation? Remember, you don’t have to agree to be kind.

Keep it simple. Longer explanations don’t necessarily bring greater understanding. What is the most important thing you want the other person to know?

“Thanks so much for thinking of me! I won’t be joining you this time, but I hope you have lots of fun.” Isn’t that way simpler (and kinder) than a string of excuses or agreeing with resentment?

This takes practice. Our explanation habits won’t change overnight. Take the time you need to get clear on your intentions and think through how you really want to respond. It’s ok to let the other person know you’ll need to get back to them later.

You likely won’t get your explanation just right every time—I don’t think any of us do. Be gentle with yourself. See what you can learn for next time and keep practicing. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect.

I’d love to know, what are the main reasons you explain your choices? What helps you offer explanations out of respect (for self or others) instead of fear? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About Johanna Schram

Johanna Schram is learning to value wrestling with the questions over having all the answers. She’s sifting through the internal and external expectations of who she is supposed to be to discover who she really is, what she values, and what she has to give. Join her at joRuth and deepen your self-knowledge with her free guides.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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5 Unusual Techniques to Stay Confident Under Extreme Pressure

You’re reading 5 Unusual Techniques to Stay Confident Under Extreme Pressure, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’re enjoying this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

You freeze. Your mind races furiously, as you try to come up with a reply.
Time seems to stretch forever while everyone in the room looks at you for an answer, the silence growing louder every second.
You know the work inside out, but yet, at this crucial moment, your mind seems to have shut down.
And you can’t help thinking:
What is wrong with me? Why does my mind always freeze when I need it most?
I am so embarrassed.
Why can’t I be like other people who are calm and confident?
The truth is, mind freeze is absolutely normal and there’s nothing to feel ashamed of.
It’s simply our body’s way of reacting and protecting us when we are in a stressful situation. Even the most seasoned politicians have frozen during presidential debates.
While this is normal, it’s still extremely painful to go through it. The blow to our confidence can be debilitating, as we start questioning our capabilities and beat ourselves up.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With a little practice, staying confident under pressure can be achieved.
Here are some unusual but effective techniques that help you overcome the freeze and feel confident and composed in a high-stress situation.

Reset Your Mind

When our mind goes blank under high pressure, it’s because our body feels overwhelmed by the situation and shuts down.
To break the freeze cycle, use a distracting image or thought to cut through the overwhelm and reset your mind.
Choose a distracting thought that has nothing to do with the situation. For example, pick an image that makes you laugh, so it eases the tension and relaxes you.
You could decide on an anchor image ahead of time so it’s easy to recall whenever you need it. For example, I use an image of Homer Simpson dreaming of donuts and going "Mmm…donuts." It’s an unexpected image in the middle of something serious, and it’s funny.
Doing this interrupts your mind from the current stress and anxiety, since it switches its attention to this new thought.
This helps to reset your mind so you can get back on track during the situation.

Relaxed Face Technique

Whenever we feel stress, one of the first areas to tense up are our jaw and facial muscles. This tends to go unnoticed because it happens so quickly and unconsciously that we are unaware that it’s happening.
So when you feel flustered in a high-stress situation, put your attention on the back of your jaw, and consciously let go of the tension. Relaxing the jaw muscles, helps your facial muslces to relax, which also signals to the rest of the body to let go of tension.
This helps you feel calmer, reduces feelings of anxiety flooding your body, and enables you to think more clearly.

Embrace the Elephant in the Room

Fighting the anxiety when you are under pressure takes up an incredible amount energy. It feels like you are repeatedly knocking your head against a massive, blank wall that surrounds you.
In this state, fighting it only serves to heightens your anxiety and makes it worse.
Instead of fighting it, acknowledge its presence. Don’t judge it, just breathe into it, observe it, and let it flow through and out of you.
Letting it pass through you helps you bounce back and into the present quickly, which empowers you to handle the situation with confidence.

Call out Your Fears

When we feel fear, the mind can feel like a runaway train, exaggerating the negative effects on us. It becomes an oppressive dark cloud that threatens to swallow us whole, and skyrockets our panic to stratospheric levels.
However, when we bring the fear out into the open, we often realize that the reality is not as bad as we thought it would be.
So, call out the fear and address it: What is it that you are fearful about? What is the worst that could happen? Is this worst fear likely to occur or is it an exaggerated projection?
This helps us put things into perspective that the outcome of a stressful situation is not as bad as it seems, and cools down the build up of frantic anxiety.

Be The Ball of Light in the Room

Our body language, and how we project our energy has large physiological effects on our confidence and how we feel.
Project confidence by imagining a ball of energy that extends outward from you to about 1 feet from your body. This is your inviolable, sacred space. Carry yourself with this projected confident energy radiating outwards.
When we move with confidence, we feel confident and energized, which others can sense immediately. As they react and reflect back the positive energy towards you, this results in a cumulative positive feedback loop, which creates more confidence within you.

Move Forward Positively

Having your mind go blank during the most crucial moments can crush your confidence.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Just putting into practice some simple techniques can have a dramatic effect on your ability to stay calm and confident in the face of pressure.
Imagine feeling composed and self-assured, as you answer questions with ease and poise in a high stakes meeting.
Knowing that you are able to truly display the wealth and depth of the expertise you possess and articulate it clearly and confidently.
All it takes is just one step. Pick one or two of the techniques that appeal to you and try it out tomorrow.
And you will be on your way to bringing out the composed and confident you that’s been there all along.

Shan Foo is an irreverent Sociologist who’s on a mission to help folks get out of confusion, leverage their full potential and step into an amazing career. Join the Free Amazing Career Community, with how-to videos on navigating career & mindset challenges, an expanding video content library and community support.

You’ve read 5 Unusual Techniques to Stay Confident Under Extreme Pressure, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’ve enjoyed this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

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Gunning for a Solution

new gun laws“There will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place we’re in at this moment,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

And then she teared up at the horrific Las Vegas shooting.

I rolled my eyes–not because I am questioning Sanders’ sincerity. Like all of us, she is aghast at the latest senseless tragedy. But I roll my eyes–and chuckle ruefully–at the practiced condolences. American society: the equivalent of a Hallmark card.

We decry senseless gun violence in the most visceral of terms. Our Twitter feeds and Facebook post lament the latest tragedy. And following Vegas or Orlando or San Bernadino, we buy a cup of coffee for an appreciative stranger. We reaffirm — at least temporarily — our collective faith in humanity’s benevolence.

And then we wait for the next tragic press conference. Wash, rinse, and repeat — including filling up that stranger’s decaf coffee.  

I don’t know about you but I would be thrilled to buy my own damn cup of coffee for a month–let alone a year–without a mass shooting.

Gun violence’s unrelenting scourge should be above partisan fray. Gun violence kills or wounds nearly 100,000 Americans each year. Equally unsettling: the United States is more violent than other well-developed, prosperous democracies. This Washington Post graph tells our violent story.

Yet while American political leaders bask in contrived notions of American exceptionalism, there is a collective shrug emoji to the high-powered assault rifles cackling in Vegas or Orlando or San Bernadino or, well, you get the idea. Yet we are supposed to move on from the latest mass shooting after our political leaders offer “thoughts and prayers,” fly to the latest tragedy, and awkwardly pose with victims.

Day of mourning. Does that include our willful indifference?

Admittedly, gun violence is a political landmine. In American society, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct. The NRA’s war chest–the organization spent $54 million dollars in campaign donations last calendar year–protects Americans’ right to bear arms. But in safeguarding Americans’ right to bear arms, the NRA and, by extension, our political leaders are not keeping us safe.

Need ammunition? Excusing my poor choice of words, the NRA funneled $27 million in direct and indirect support to 50 senators who voted against a bill to require universal background checks. And, in 2015, the NRA endowed the 54 senators who voted against a measure prohibiting people on the government’s terrorist watch list from buying guns with $37 million in financial support. Money talks–and apparently it is loud enough to drown out the “thoughts and prayers” from the latest horrific tragedy.

Color me outraged–and motivated. Yes, gun violence is more complex than a mental health diagnosis, a blighted neighborhood in urban America, or even the NRA’s well-heeled political servants. But as our tears dry and Miss Sanders moves on to the latest political firestorm, her words–”That’s not the place we are at this moment”–snap me back to a sobering reality.

In 2017, indiscriminate gun violence does not discriminate. And we — you, me, your lovely next-door neighbor — are confronting that grim reality at this moment. Even if the Trump administration and its sycophants aren’t

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