7 Ways to Develop Self-Discipline

I have a confession to make.

As I sit here and write this, I have absolutely no desire to make it happen. Putting these words is a battle – I’d rather be eating junk food, and truth be told, watching paint dry. But self-discipline is taking over, which will ultimately lead to the publication of this article.

We as humans absolutely love to take the easy way out. We are blessed with the brains that make us the smartest living creature on this planet, and because of this, we’re always creating efficient ways to deal with tangible things and processes. That’s a good thing.

But sometimes, blessings come with a curse. As smart as we are, it takes a wrong turn when we try to apply some impractical level of efficiency to the intangibles in life. In other words, you can’t hack hard work, applying yourself to a task, learning or growing, and taking risks. That’s a bad thing.

As you’ve probably heard, sometimes taking the stairs, instead of the elevator, is the best path to success.

Inevitably, life will lead you to a lot of moments where you don’t feel like doing the things you need to do. It is a natural part of living on this beautiful Earth. But we have the power to actively challenge our lack of motivation by developing the self-discipline necessary to accelerate your life to the level you want, and simultaneously, deserve.

Follow these seven steps to fine-tune your self-discipline.

1. Define What You Want

How do you know what you’re supposed to do if you don’t know what you’re going towards?

Before you implement any process, you need to have a goal. In other words, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. This is probably the easiest step and one that can be continuously tinkered with as you adjust where you are in your life.

2. Find The Motivation

How does a fire burn for hours? It needs some type of gas or fuel. Think of your goal as the fire, and your motivation as the fuel. You want a slow, continuous injection of motivation to keep you on track, versus a rocket boost. Self-discipline doesn’t become a habit in short bursts; it becomes a habit with constant application.

With that out of the way, what is your motivation?

There’s two ways to get motivated – thinking of the things you want to achieve as a result of obtaining your goals (such as becoming CEO, owning your own business, or driving a Ferrari), or the things you don’t want if you don’t obtain your goals (such as the current spot in your life you find yourself in or could find yourself in).

In my opinion, the best form of motivation is the latter. Think about all the things you probably won’t achieve if you fail to implement the proper self-discipline in your life: the career or even career potential you’ll never reach because you got lazy. The money you’ll never have because you procrastinated. The house you won’t live in or the car you won’t drive or the partner you’ll never get.

This produces a lot more internal emotion than dreaming about the car you could be driving one day. It’s more realistic and upsetting to think about the car you would be driving if you don’t change.

3. Setup a System When You Lack The Desire

Inevitably, you’ll run into a wall. Chances are you’ll be running into walls on a pretty regular basis. It’s about doing things when you don’t always feel like doing them. That is what defines self-discipline and sets it from just doing things to actually determining who you are as a person.

So if you lack the motivation and you lack the desire to accomplish your goal, setup a system like the Pomodoro technique to make yourself work. Give yourself 20 minutes of distraction-free work, and then take a little break. Repeat as many times as you want in order to make progress.

By the same token, try blocking out all social media or distracting websites for a short time while you focus in on the task at hand. Turn off the TV even if it’s just background noise. Put on your headphones and dial in. Remind yourself of what you probably won’t achieve if you keep procrastinating.

4. Reward Yourself For Finishing

Whether you worked 20 minutes without any distractions or you went the whole day working non-stop until you completed your task, give yourself a little reward. Online shop for a bit. Step out of the house and go eat something fancier. Find some way to give yourself a little boost for accomplishing things.

Make the reward fit the task. We like being rewarded for effort, so don’t fight it.

5. Don’t Hate Yourself When You Don’t Finish

On the flip-side, here’s a reality check: you will, on a consistent basis, not be able to achieve every last thing you set out to do that day, that week, that month, or that year. Maybe it’s because you switched gears and went a different direction and thus accomplished other things, or perhaps it’s because you didn’t find it the right fit for your current goals.

Whatever it is, the more time you spend hating yourself, the more time you’re wasting not improving yourself. You aren’t a machine, and you aren’t likely to check off a list of tasks without coming up short. But you can get close. And if you don’t, move on, and check more things off.

6. Reflect on Your Progress

What works and what doesn’t is an entirely individual process that is unique to each person. There are methods out there that exist because they work – and you should try to use them. The question isn’t whether a technique works (because it probably does for a lot of people), it’s whether it fits for you in your life. Try things out, and if you aren’t feeling it, try something else. But try to give something a solid 30 days before you decide it’s not for you. See how it’s helping you achieve your goals, and then make the proper adjustments from there.

7. Adjust What You Want

As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t be hard on yourself if you don’t accomplish something, because there’s a possibility you may have switched directions or goals.

It’s vitally important that you continually reassess your goals and desires on a regular basis in order to stay on track, while also making sure you’re achieving the things you set out to achieve. If you’re achieving things, but in your mind and on your paper you have a different set of written goals, then naturally you’ll be upset with yourself that you didn’t accomplish it. And in the process, you completely forget about what you actually did achieve.

So in order to avoid this gap of your actual achievements versus your written ones, make sure they both line up, so you get your brain adjusted to knowing it actually completes tasks.

It’s a Circular Process

Improving and developing self-discipline is somewhat of a circular process – you define what you want, the motivation you need to achieve it, the methods you implement to accomplish it, and then reassess or redefine what you want in order to start the process over.

Whether the reassess/redefine stage happens because you accomplished a goal or because you want to switch directions, it’s still a crucial step that allows you to keep your momentum going forward and instilling the habits necessary to achieve effective self-discipline.

The post 7 Ways to Develop Self-Discipline appeared first on FinerMinds.

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Can Simulating Hallucinations Help Us Learn about Psychosis?

Psychosis, when people lose touch with reality, is not a rare occurrence — as many as three in 100 people will experience it at some point during their lives. Psychosis typically includes hallucinations, which consist of seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not actually there. A common example is hearing voices. It can also include delusions, which are beliefs that are not likely to be true and that seem irrational or nonsensical to other people. A typical example involves believing that outside forces are controlling your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The limits of ministry: Pagan clergy and serious situations

TWH — Paganism, together with the polytheistic and other religions with which it is often lumped, might be characterized as standing apart from conventional cultural and legal institutions. A not-entirely-undeserved stereotype is that of fierce independence from the over-culture, if not outright contrarianism, which can be witnessed in everything from an early acceptance of same-sex marriage to a rejection of the building of infrastructure that might result in hierarchy and rules.

Even within Pagan and polytheist traditions wherein opposing cultural norms is not in vogue, it can be challenging to establish institutions and best practices for the sacred work of priest-craft and ministry simply because the faith traditions involved often don’t have enough in common for practitioners to overcome their small numbers by working together.

[Pixabay]

We spoke with several Pagans and polytheists who have professional training related to the work often undertaken by members of the clergy, in order to better understand the challenges faced by those who are called to this service, particularly when it comes to providing any type of spiritual or emotional support which might be thought of as “counseling.”

For the sake of simplicity, throughout this article the word “priest” refers as well to priestesses; this is not to suggest that one gender is preferred or superior over any other, but instead follows the deprecation of such words as “authoress” in acknowledgement that such roles can be filled by persons of any gender.

Kenya Coviak, a board member of the Universal Society of Ancient Ministry, is certified in mental health first aid, and has experience as a lay minister, lay counselor, and as a family service worker.

“I think it is important to differentiate between lay counseling, pastoral/priestly or clergy counseling, and professional behavioral health and psychiatric [care],” she said. “There are different requirements and scopes of involvement.”

One of the key differences — and one that varies by location — is who is deemed a mandated reporter, and exactly what must be reported. Coviak recommends checking one’s state’s web site for details, if living in the United States; the advice holds true for those living elsewhere.

Timotheos, leader of Temenos Oikidios in Rhode Island, provides his temple’s priests with training based on his own certification as a life coach.

“Life coaching has huge emphasis on boundaries,” he says. “You can’t go into psychological counseling. Spiritual coaching can fall into that same trap if you’re not careful.”

People in the Pagan communities “need to bone up on ethics,” according to Anne Hill, who teaches Boundaries and Ethics at Cherry Hill Seminary, “especially in spiritual counseling.” Not having a central church makes that all the more challenging, she adds. To that end, her students must, as one assignment, research a code of conduct, often a professional one. “Who reads the code of conduct?” she asks.

One thing that makes coaching different than counseling, Timotheos says, is its limited nature. “If the person is not moving forward or making progress within a reasonable period of time, if goals are not being reached or they are not following up, there may be something deeper going on, which is reason to consider moving them on to another person” with different qualifications.

“The word ‘priest’ means many different things,” says Anomalous Thracian, who has worked as professional clergy in the prison system. In Lukumi, for example, some of those initiated into priesthood do so to serve others, but some simply need the ashe, or medicine, which becomes available at that level.

“There’s little acknowledgement of the different contexts it’s used in,” he says.

Thracian notes that it’s important to separate out those sacred initiations from the vocational training which qualifies someone to provide counseling or other mental health support. “What kind of priest are you? Are you a ritualist, a minister, a counselor, a chaplain? Not everyone is good at everything. When people are good at one thing, they often fall into the trap of hanging a shingle that proclaims that they’re good at everything.”

“We must guard against hubris,” Hill adds.

[Pixabay]

Before deciding to engage in any such healing work, Coviak advises, “it is important to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Take some classes. There are many free ones out here. Go to ministries and volunteer. Get experience with groups other than your own.”

Hill says that even basic healing work in this area would benefit from training in impairment assessment and cultural competencies. Additionally, the size of Pagan communities mean that there’s often dual relationships: one might provide counseling or coaching in one context, but be friends or coven-mates in another, and that takes practice to navigate well.

Working with people in crisis can mean working with people in serious trouble. Coviak says that to be prepared, “have an objective person look at your experience and interview you about what you can and cannot be comfortable in doing as a profession, and what you actually do as a paraprofessional. Know that if you run into a situation, it is always better to ask yourself [if] this something that will be a cause of remorse and grieving for later if you did not report it.”

She adds some questions to consider: “Are there visible marks of abuse? Is it hearsay? What is the source? Document everything you see and hear that same day before you call” any official to report a problem.

When it comes to the law, Hill also says that understanding the rules is absolutely necessary, not only when something must be reported, but whether consent forms should be used, and a clear sense of the legal exposure involved.

Mandated reporting typically protects those particularly vulnerable, especially children. When it comes to other potentially dangerous situations, such as threats of violence by one adult upon another, the law itself does not always provide such clear guidance.

According to Cat Chapin-Bishop, first chair of Cherry Hill Seminary’s pastoral counseling department, there is tort law which establishes a “duty to protect” when a counselor is made aware of a threat against another person. The precedent, established in Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, mandates warning the intended victim or taking other steps to protect the intended victim. That includes volunteers and unpaid pastoral counselors, she says.

“Communications with volunteer counselors are subject to some privacy protections and some mandates, and not others,” Chapin-Bishop explains.

“For instance, rape crisis services are largely staffed by trained volunteers, and the training typically entitles their clients to invoke privilege against discovery in criminal trials of the offenders. They are also typically mandated reporters of child abuse, and considered to have a duty to warn in cases of a credible threat to an identifiable victim, as in Tarasoff. The same is generally true for mental health hotline volunteers and interns. However, the truth is that there is a patchwork quilt of contradictory statutes and case law spanning the states; it’s not a simple question.”

She also recommends researching local laws carefully.

Coviak advises asking oneself, “What is the risk if I am wrong? What is the likelihood I am mistaken? Is this situation one that will run the risk of harm and danger if I don’t speak up? Is there another indicator that makes me feel that the threat is real?”

She adds, “If you are that concerned, but unsure of what to do, I suggest then to speak with to them directly if you feel it is safe. If you doubt this, then speak to mutual acquaintances and ask if they are also sharing your concerns.” A professional in the relevant field might also be able to assist in risk assessment, as well as provide needed distance from the situation.

Threats of suicide most always be taken seriously Coviak says. “Ask the question. Yes, it’s scary. Ask them anyway. Ask if they are thinking about it. Ask if they have a plan. Get someone on the phone, and ask them if they can be safe with you for right now.”

When there is a risk of harm, Timotheos says, “Client confidentiality goes right out the window. It’s on my conscience if they do it, and I could be held responsible, as well.”

At a bare minimum, referring to a mental health professional must be immediate at that point. He recommends identifying Pagan-friendly psychologists in the area. “Know who you will refer to,” he says, before it’s needed.

Thracian wholeheartedly agrees with referring to specialists as needed. “Know when you hit your limit, and refer out when you hit it,” he says, or “seek additional training” if that’s possible.

[Pixabay]

While she’s aware of the rules in her own state of Michigan, Coviak doesn’t necessarily stop at the legal line. “I’ve got[ten] some bumps over doing my duty. I say duty, but not as a mandated reporter, but as a human being. That’s all I have, in the end. My humanity is my final credential.”

Chapin-Bishop agrees. “I would argue that the most important consequences are the purely ethical ones: acting as if one is a trained counselor puts the confidences of counselees at risk, and not observing duty to warn or mandated reporter laws can put people at serious risk of harm — not cool for those holding themselves out as competent healers and wise counselors.”

Despite having once taught the subject, Chapin-Bishop wonders about the value of Pagans providing such services at all. “I think it would be good if Pagans questioned why we believe we should offer pastoral counseling in the first place. I have a sense that we believe we should offer it, because, as a group, we desperately crave legitimacy. We want to be thought of as ‘real clergy’ practicing a ‘real religion,’ and for most of us, that winds up meaning we imitate our culture’s dominant model of both; straight out of the Christian rule book.

“As matters stand, I fear we often share the worst features of how independent fundamentalist Christian ministers operate: assuming our spiritual training gives us all the skill we could ever need, and allowing our assumptions about our relationships to our communities to make us too arrogant to analyze either our limits or alternatives to pretending to expertise we don’t actually have.”

Hill doesn’t entirely agree, saying, “We can learn from other traditions,”as to how to provide spiritually-specific care.

Clients themselves should exercise discernment, Thracian says, “shopping around” and not going to a priest that’s not qualified for the particular task. Unfortunately, he admits, not every priest is good at knowing those limits; checking references and asking around is necessary to be sure.

Chapin-Bishop nevertheless, acknowledges that there are good Pagan clergy training programs in existence, and Timotheos agrees. What he stresses, however, is that “these are skills you can’t learn from a book,” only from hands-on practice. He also notes that pastoral counseling is not what one typically learns in, for example, the priestly initiations of a coven.

Regardless of the intent of one’s clergy training, there is an assumption that priests will be capable of providing this form of support, as Thracian notes. To that end, seeking outside training as a coach, lay counselor, or mental health first aid is an important first step.

“These are not hard skills to master,” says Timotheos; they include “listening intuitively, paraphrasing, and reframing problems. Even diviners should have this kind of training, as they are in a leadership role whether or not they acknowledge it.”

Thracian adds his own ideas, including taking classes at community colleges, including ones in the philosophy of moral theory or ethics, “just to know how to discuss it.”

Additionally, he suggests engaging with “people who hold privileged information, such as attorneys and doctors, when there’s legal implications.” He also holds certifications in mediation and conflict resolution.

Once involved in this work, Thracian strongly recommends building a network of peers with which to debrief and commiserate. By speaking in an anonymized fashion about issues, clergy members can compare notes and ensure that they aren’t carrying the burdens of others on their shoulders. “Therapists do this,” he says.

Hill agrees. “Without knowing about transference and counter-transference, you won’t know why you feel bad and how to extricate yourself.” She says that Pagan practices such as grounding can help alleviate problems like compassion fatigue, which commonly plague providers. “The goal is sustainable service,” she says, rather than ministerial burnout.

Pagans, like anyone else, will at some point need support that can enter that blurry area where spirituality, mental health, and ethics converge. The key to that help being successful lies both in the priests who must clearly demarcate their own abilities and limits, and in the clients who seek succor. The need will exist whether or not the Pagan communities establish best practices, and thus relying on models from outside will likely remain an important alternative for the foreseeable future.

Source: http://wildhunt.org

Girl Cliques: 8 Labels Teens Should Avoid

In social groups of status and hierarchy, relational aggression (“a type of aggression in which harm is caused by damaging someone’s relationships or social status,” according to Wikipedia) often swells underground. In the pressurized atmosphere of a teenage girl clique, the ground can erupt when fears and insecurities (compounded by hormones) frequently predominate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Does Trump’s MoCA Cognitive Test Really Tell Us?

President Trump recently underwent his annual physical checkup. At Trump’s apparent insistence, the physician also administered a test of cognitive ability, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).

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

Developed in the early 2000s at Montreal’s McGill University by a group of researchers, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is a simple paper-and-pencil test meant to detect mild cognitive impairment and cognitive degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It takes about 10 to 12 minutes to take and is indicated for people where a physician may have reason to suspect possible cognitive deficits or dementia. That is, MoCA tests to see if a person is having significant thinking or memory problems.

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

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

Does This Mean Trump is Mentally Healthy?

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

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

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

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

Can We Trust the Person Who Administered It?

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

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

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

Trump standing next to Obama

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

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

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

 

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

 

References

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

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

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

Footnotes:

  1. The scoring of MoCA is as simple as the test itself: Visuospatial and Executive Functioning: 5 points; Animal Naming: 3 points; Attention: 6 points; Language: 3 points; Abstraction: 2 points; Delayed Recall (Short-term Memory): 5 points; Orientation: 6 points; and Education Level: 1 point is added to the test-taker’s score if he or she has 12 years or less of formal education.

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6 Ways to Rev Up Your Workout Resolutions

Getting healthy and staying fit in 2018 may not be as hard as you think. Consider adopting these tried-and-true solutions. Doing so may give you a boost of inspiration when the winter cold lures you toward the couch.

1) Find a buddy

Make a commitment to exercise with a friend or coworker once or twice per week. It helps to choose someone you wouldn’t want to disappoint. This will hold you accountable and improve the likelihood of staying consistent. Besides, working out with a friend makes sweating more fun.

2) Turn on the tunes

In a 2013 study, researchers showed that pumping up the music while we exercise significantly improves our mood. Listening to inspiring tunes while exercising also distracts you from fatigue and motivates you to work out longer and harder. Plug in, tune in, and turn it up.

3) Prepare

To maintain your routine, plan ahead. On Sunday evening, grab your calendar and schedule your daily workouts for the week. Add all possible types of exercise, including walking the dog, trips to the gym, and dancing with friends. Plan your ideal schedule in detail, then hold that schedule lightly. As we know, sick kids and jammed traffic easily get in the way of our best-laid plans.

4) Get outside

It’s often said that if you need to solve a problem, go out for a walk. Get some fresh air, clear your mind, and you’re likely to return home with your answer. Especially during the shorter days of winter, spending time outside can improve focus, reduce symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and lower stress levels. Bundle up!

5) Sign up for a class

Facing a work-out during the cold, dark winter months can be disheartening. Doing it on your own makes exercising even more daunting. The antidote to lonely miles on the treadmill is to register for a series of classes. Find a yoga or rock-climbing class—or hit the dance floor. Make your work-out social, and you’re more likely to have fun and stay motivated.

Make your work-out social, and you’re more likely to have fun and stay motivated.

6) If you can’t get outside, then turn up the lights.

Research shows exercising under bright lights lifts our moods, especially in the winter months when daylight hours are limited. Gyms are great for keeping the floods on. If you exercise at home, be sure to head for the brightest room in the house.

 

 

This article appeared in the February 2018 issue of Mindful magazine in a featured article titled, “Winter Got You Down? Move Around!

 

 

Winter Got You Down? Move Around!

How to Cut Yourself Some S.L.A.C.K. and Kick Some A** In the New Year

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How to Start Conversations with Strangers

Connecting with StrangersHow do you enter conversations with people you don’t know?

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

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

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

Call out your inner nerd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Annoys Us About Others Can Teach Us About Ourselves

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung

When my wife and I had children, little did we know that we’d be creating little bundles of nerves. Between my wife’s depression and my own anxiety, we created two anxiety-ridden, depressed balls of mess, and then some.

Don’t get me wrong, we love our two girls to death, and we are very proud of them. They are both very strong and beautiful young ladies. Occasionally we like hanging out with them too.

While the two girls have similar interests, their personalities couldn’t be more different. They both exhibit anxiety and depression, yet they show it in different ways. The oldest has panic attacks and hyperventilates, unable to stop herself from crying and heaving. The youngest just curls up in a ball and is unable to move or do anything.

We find it interesting that the qualities we love, and those we dislike, about both girls stem from both of us. It is as if though the Universe took the best and the worst from both of us and amplified it in our children.

All That Talent Gone to Waste

My oldest daughter is naturally talented in many areas. She’s strong and athletic, she’s naturally artistic, she’s smart, and she also has a talent for music. She has a beautiful voice, and picked up playing classical guitar in almost no time.

What drives my wife crazy is that my daughter doesn’t realize how talented and gifted she is.

What drives me crazy is that she doesn’t develop that talent, and do something with it. She has so much potential.

As parents, it is easy for us to look at our children and wail and moan about their perceived shortcomings, their lost potential, and so forth. We know what they are going through, because we have both been there. We both struggle with anxiety, so we know what it looks like and how it affects our children.

In general, isn’t it easier to see the shortcomings that we perceive in other people, than our own?

Little Mirrors

What I’ve realized, however, is that our children mirror our own behaviors and attitudes as parents. What annoy us about our children’s personalities are often quirks we ourselves have.

This principle actually applies to all our relationships, not just with those of us with children. We should stop and ask ourselves, “Am I setting that example? Am I acting the same way?” Often, we don’t realize that what annoys us about someone else is actually an issue we ourselves have.

For instance, in extreme cases, children who exhibit violent behaviors often come from violent households. They are mirroring the behavior they have been exposed to at home.

In my wife’s case, it drives her crazy that my oldest daughter doesn’t realize how talented and gifted she is, even though my wife clearly sees it. Yet, when I look at my wife, I see the same thing in her! It is indeed ironic.

My wife doesn’t think she’s very talented or gifted, and wonders what people see in her. Obviously I saw something in her, because I married her! So the very issue that irritates my wife about my daughter is the very issue that she herself unconsciously struggles with.

So Much Potential…

What drives me nuts about my oldest daughter? It frustrates me that I see so much potential in her, and yet I don’t see her developing it. She has so much natural talent, she could be a leader. Her peers look up to her and admire her, and she doesn’t even realize it.

What does this say about me? Am I the same way?

Looking at myself through the same lenses, I am forced to laugh, because I do see the same thing! Like my daughter, I probably have many talents I don’t even realize I have. Looking at myself from the outside, I think I have the potential to be a leader as well, but I choose not to. I had so much potential…

Learning About Ourselves

From this perspective, I can’t really blame my daughter. I have social anxiety and don’t want to deal with people, and I know she does too. Often times I’ll go out of my way to avoid people. What I perceive as my daughter not developing her talents is more than likely her not wanting to be the center of attention. I can relate to that—I don’t like being the center of attention either.

I never thought I would be learning about myself from my own children. Sure, I figured they’d know more about new technologies than me, for example. When I have a question about how to do something on my iPhone, for instance, I go to them, and they can show me right away.

Yet, what my children are teaching me are what issues I need to deal with in myself. Perhaps I, too, have many skills and undeveloped potential, if only I could learn to manage my social anxiety. We often want our children to be different from us, to have different experiences. We don’t want them to go through the same things we struggled with, yet as much as we try or want to, we can’t change who they are.

We can, however, change ourselves. There is value in stopping to reflect on what frustrates you about your children, your family, or your friends. What behaviors irritate you? What do you think they could be doing better?

Then stop and look at yourself. Are you exhibiting the same behaviors? What could you be doing better? Are you making the changes in yourself that you’d like to see in your relationships?

Practice the Golden Rule

Of course as parents, we want to support our children and provide them everything they need to be happy, healthy, and successful. What parent doesn’t? It may frustrate us that they are not living up to their potential, as we see it—but the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Are they mirroring our own behavior?

As parents, we show our children love and patience, but our expectations of them should follow the mirroring principle, or the golden rule—would we want to be held to the same standards? My daughter could be captain of the soccer team, but would I want to be one, if I was in her position? Probably not.

We could make our kids practice the piano for an hour every day, and do their homework for three hours after school. Would we want to do that? Probably not.

The mirroring principle with our children, family, and friends, then, goes both ways. What can we learn about ourselves from our relationships? Conversely, what should we expect from our family and friends, that we ourselves would be willing to do?

About José de le Torre

Known as the Be at Peace Coach, José de la Torre takes a holistic approach in helping clients overcome challenges, and helps them find peace, balance, health and wellness in their lives. Keep an eye out for his book, Spiritual Living for Busy People, coming out January 30, 2018 on Amazon.com. Find out more at jose-delatorre.com, or connect on Facebook.

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How I Went From Insomniac to the Best Sleep of My Life

You’re reading How I Went From Insomniac to the Best Sleep of My Life, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’re enjoying this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

Sleep. Some of us can’t get enough of it, while others are in a love-hate relationship.
For many years after becoming an entrepreneur, I was the latter. Like every human, my mind and body needed sleep to function. The problem was, I had trouble actually falling asleep in the first place.
Now, I will say that there are variances of how one would define an insomniac. I wasn’t suffering from chronic insomnia that could do serious damage to my well-being. However, there were many periods when I would only get two to three hours of sleep during the week.
If mild and periodic insomnia is something you face, or even chronic insomnia, read on. As my work, relationships, and overall energy began to decline further, I took serious action to research and ‘self-experiment’ on fixing my insomnia for good.
I won’t bore you with the full journey, but rather give you the top 5 actionable tips that had the most impact in my sleep quality. Hope it brings you value.

1. Choose your ideal sleep cycle

I had no idea that there were different sleep cycles you could experiment with. My entire life, I just assumed that people sleep 7-8 hours then remained awake for the rest of the day.
I found that there are four main sleep cycles that are well-known:

  • Monophasic Cycle
    • Amount of sleep: 7-9 hours (one sleep cycle)
    • Best suited for: 9-to-5 workers
  • Biphasic Cycle
    • Amount of sleep: 5-6 hours within the day
    • Best suited for: Workers that can leave work early or work at home
  • Everyman Cycle
    • Amount of sleep: One 3.5 hours of deep sleepwithin the day; Three 20 minute naps during the day
    • Best suited for: Those who want to explore polyphasic without going extreme
  • Uberman Cycle
    • Amount of sleep: six to eight naps (20 minute each)
    • Best suited for: Those who want the most out of their day without being tired

In the end, I decided to remain in the monophasic sleep cycle, but I often experiment with biphasic cycle to see how I feel. You should see for yourself what’s right for you.

2. Invest in the right tools

Just like finding the right tools in your work can make you significantly effective, finding the right sleep tools help you sleep better, faster.
a. Bluelight blocking glasses
Usage: During the day

Research show that we spend over 10 hours per day staring into our screens. Likely more if you’re in tech. Studies state that blue light exposure can negatively impact different parts of our brain and body. They include digital eye strain, headaches, and of course disruption of our sleep cycle.
As an entrepreneur I spend late nights staring at my lap top screen. When I tried to sleep, my mind was still stimulated overflowing with thoughts and energy that made it impossible for me to sleep.
I started wearing iGOTHAM’s blue light blocking glasses and have noticed reduction in my eye strain. I normally wear these when I’m working, and make sure to put them on at night before I sleep (since I can’t stay away from my laptop at night!). Some harmful effects of bluelight can be found here.
 
b. Blackout curtains
Usage: For the bedroom

Even a sliver of light that enters into our bedroom can impact one’s sleep. While I can sleep through some light coming into my room, there are other nights where I absolutely need total darkness.
Using blackout curtains is the simplest solution, and installing it is pretty simple.
c. Bonus: Hot shower
Need I say more? All in all, taking a hot shower helps me relax when I’m stressed or stimulated before sleeping.

3. Leave any electronics out of the bedroom

A tip that has surprisingly been effective for me is: keeping all personal electronics outside of the bedroom.
I know… it’s devastating. But I encourage you to try it for just one day. 
Here’s what you do:

  • Just before you go to bed: Take your phone, computer, smart watches (and chargers) outside your room
    *If you don’t have any other space, then place it on the opposite end of where you sleep
  • Put all of your devices on silent mode (or turn if off completely)
  • Don’t check it until the next morning

Let me know how this goes!

4. The 90 minute rule

“You need 8 hours of sleep per day.”
It’s one of the most common (and generalized) advice you get about sleep. Speak to professional sleep researchers and most of them will tell you that is baloney. Instead, the use the ’90 minute rule.’ This is based on the knowledge that our sleep cycle contains five distinct phases, divided into four stages of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, followed by a stage of REM sleep (in which we dream).
Each of these cycles takes roughly 90 minutes, followed by a brief interlude when we are relatively wakeful, before a new cycle starts again. This means that you will feel most refreshed when you awake at the end of a 90-minute sleep cycle because you will be closest to your normal waking state. 
To maximize the chances of this happening, work out when you want to wake up, then count back in  90-minute blocks to find a time near to when you want to go to sleep. You can also use this sleep cycle calculator to make it easy for yourself.
Let’s imagine that you want to wake at 8am and wish to go to sleep around midnight.
Counting back in 90-minute segments from 8am would look like this:
8am > 6:30am > 5am > 3:30am > 2am > 12:30am > 11pm
In this example, you should aim to fall asleep around either 11pm or 12.30am in order to feel especially refreshed in the morning.
So next time someone tells you that you must get 8 hours of sleep, tell them about the 90 minute rule!

5. Change how you think about the bedroom

I used to work from my bedroom, and looking back. It was a mistake. Now, I only do two things in the bedroom: sleep and sex. That’s it.
More importantly, there’s a few actionable things you can do today to transform your bedroom into the ultimate sleep cave.
a. Go DARK
And I mean DARK.
Any sort of light that is seeping through can potentially disrupt our sleep cycles. That could mean

  • Shutting your curtains completely (or buying a better one that completely fills up your windows)
  • Pointing any electronics or alarm clock away from you
  • Turning off all warm lights

Then, when it’s morning time, you can start the day with bright lights and your body will be able to know that it’s morning time.
b. Replace white light with warm light before bed 
This option is great for preparing your body to calm down before bed time. Most of the bright LED lights trigger alertness when it’s turned on, and that’s the opposite effect we want before bed.
You can find warm, orange light in just about any pharmacy store in your local neighbourhood.
c. Light up a candle
Similar to option 2, but the candle combines the warm lighting with a soothing scent.
I recommend checking out the following aromas:

  • Lavender
  • Chamomille
  • Vanilla

d. Adjust your room temperature
Sleep experts have shown that room temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for the best sleep. A room with extreme temperatures leads to more frequent awakenings and lighter sleep.
I hope this was useful for those of you that struggle with getting quality sleep in your life. As a fellow entrepreneur burning the midnight oil, sleeping better has been a game changer in my personal life and business. If these tips overwhelmed you in anyway, I recommend just starting with one of them. Once you notice the positive effects in your sleep, you can try another, and so forth. Best of luck and leave a comment below to share how it went!

You’ve read How I Went From Insomniac to the Best Sleep of My Life, 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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How Pets Can Teach Children about Life, Love and Loss

Why kids and pets are the perfect pairing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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