How Travel Can Benefit Our Mental Health

pexels-photoEver feel like you are stuck in a rut? Taking a vacation and having a change of scenery, even if it is just a couple of hours down the road, can work wonders, and it has been scientifically proven that travel provides a number of benefits to your mental health. Just one trip away could help change your outlook on life for the better — here are a few reasons why it may be worth packing your suitcase.

It enhances creativity

As creativity is generally related to neuroplasticity (how the brain is wired), it means our brains are sensitive to change, influenced by new environments and experiences. According to the Colombia Business School’s Adam Galinsky, the key to getting a creativity boost is to really immerse yourself in the place and engage with its local culture; this open-mindedness can help you to embrace different ways of living to your own, in turn influencing your own outlook on life. Having a creative outlet is a great way to practice mindfulness and so the more you are able to put it to good use, the better.

It can affect your personality

Travelling, particularly if you are in a foreign country, can sometimes put you out of your comfort zone, and so you often have to adapt to those differences. This challenge strengthens the ‘openness’ dimension of your personality, according to a 2013 paper by Zimmerman and Neyer. The paper adds that this adaptation makes you less emotionally reactive to day-to-day changes, improving emotional stability, while meeting new people can also help with agreeableness, depending on the size of your existing social network.

Stress relief

Our lives can often be constantly busy, and sometimes we may feel that we are living each day on repeat. Travel is a great way to escape the stresses and commitments of everyday life, offering novelty and change in the form of new people, sights and experiences. Margaret J King of the Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis has said this about the stress-relieving abilities of travel, “With a short list of activities each day, freed up from the complexities of ongoing projects and relationships, the mind can reset, as does the body, with stress relief the main outcome.”

For some, travel is not about seeing new places, but rather escaping old ones that have a negative impact on our lives. Vacations can also help us to manage stress as they take us away from the places and activities that contribute to our stress levels.

Happiness is boosted even before you travel

The effects of travel aren’t felt only during and after your trip – in fact, even just the anticipation of going on vacation can boost your mood. People are at their happiest when they have a vacation planned, a study by the University of Surrey found, and are also more positive about their health, economic situation and general quality of life.

A study by Cornell University also found that we get more happiness from anticipating a travel experience in comparison to anticipating buying a new possession. It turns out that money can buy you happiness, but just not in the way we expected!

It strengthens relationships

Sharing travel experiences with your other half can make your relationship with them stronger, according to a survey by the US Travel Association, which has a knock-on effect on your own mental wellbeing and self-esteem. The results showed that not only does travel have long-term effects for couples, such as an increased closeness and perception of shared interests and goals, but also that it helps to maintain relationships, as well as to reignite a romantic spark.

Not only do you get to enjoy some quality time together and enjoy new experiences together, but overcoming the tougher elements of travelling together, such as planning the trip and making any compromises, can help bring you closer together and make you a stronger couple.

References:

Crane, B. (2015). For a More Creative Brain, Travel. Retrieved 14 February 2017, from http://ift.tt/2lBeSH5

Gilbert, D. and Abdullah, J. (2002). A study of the impact of the expectation of a holiday on an individual’s sense of well-being. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 8(4), p.352-361.

Kumar, A., Killingsworth, M. A., and Gilovich, T. (2014). Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases. Psychological Science, 25(10), p.1924-1931.

US Travel Association. (2015). Travel Strengthens Relationships and Ignites Romance (p. 1-2). Washington DC: US Travel Association. Retrieved from http://ift.tt/2c3u7Eb

William, D. K. (n.d.) Science Proves That Traveling Can Boost Your Health and Overall Well-Being. Retrieved 14 February 2017, from http://ift.tt/1XhdQyd

Zimmerman, J. and Neyer, F. J. (2013). Do we become a different person when hitting the road? Personality development of sojourners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(3), p515-530.

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Lower the Bar, Save Your Marriage

Declining bar chart drawn on a green chalkboardMany people marry and soon find that their spouse is annoying — not constantly of course, but more than they expected. Fairy tales and romantic novels suggest that a good marriage is an effortless, happily ever after experience, with the emphasis on effortless.

Rabbi Yosef Richards offers this tongue-in-cheek, but really truer to life view of marriage: “People are annoying. So find the person who annoys you the least and marry that one.”

A good marriage provides companionship, comfort, security, sex, and for most of us, a sense of completion. We feel more whole and more at home with our spouse.

But don’t let fairytales and romantic movies and novels confuse you. Unrealistic expectations cause us to feel shortchanged. By keeping yours realistic, you’re much more likely to appreciate your partner’s good qualities and value your marriage.

The chart below shows how to change some common unrealistic expectations for marriage into relationship enhancing ones.   

                             What Do You Expect From Marriage?

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS                   REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

It will be easy to transition from single to married. Getting married is a big change. It takes time to adjust to your new roles and to each other.
I’ll never be lonely again. One person cannot satisfy all your needs for companionship. Maintain friendships with others.
I won’t be bored anymore. You are responsible for keeping yourself entertained and interesting. It’s not his job.
We’ll never argue. Conflicts occur in close relationships. You can learn to manage them well.
He’ll change after we’re married, in the ways I want him to. “What you see is what you get.” Don’t expect him to change basic character traits or habits.
He’ll know how I feel and what I want; I shouldn’t need to tell him. He can’t read your mind. If you want him to know something, you should to tell him.
Marriage is a 50-50 proposition. It’s better to give and receive graciously than to get all even-steven about what’s “fair.”  
He’ll do chores the way I want them done. His standards and ways are likely to be different from yours. Best to accept this.
Sex will always be great. Sex should often be great but not every single time. Good communication helps here too.

 

If you hold some of the expectations on the left side of the chart, you’re in good company. Such beliefs are widespread. In my therapy practice I see the damage they create in marriages. I also see the transformation that occurs when spouses lowers their expectations bar and become more accepting of each other.  

The mindreading expectation is an example of a particularly harmful one because it often results in misunderstandings and hurt feelings. A spouse thinks, “Why doesn’t he do what I want (or get how I feel)? I shouldn’t have to tell him; he should know!”

The expectation for your spouse to read your mind can cause lasting harm to a relationship. A wife who’s disappointed with her husband for not sensing her needs may act out her feelings. She might give him the silent treatment or withhold sex. A husband who’s angry at his wife for not knowing what he wants might withdraw and sulk. Grudges build and the relationship gets compromised over time.

What if the wife in this example realizes that it’s unlikely to expect her husband to read her mind? She now tells herself, “If I want him to know what I feel, think, or need, I have to tell him.” And then she does express herself clearly and kindly.  

By stating our feelings, wants, and needs directly and respectfully to our partner, we enhance understanding and strengthen our connection. Step by step instructions for how to use seven positive communication skills are included in Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted.

By changing naïve expectations about marriage into a more realistic ones, we become more accepting of our mate and foster a happier, more fulfilling marriage.

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Watch Cate Blanchett Slay a Lip Sync of “You Don’t Own Me” at a Stonewall Inn Drag Show

The audience at the Stonewall Inn’s Tuesday night benefit performance for the Newtown Action Alliance got a special surprise when Cate Blanchett took the stage. In an effort to raise money for the charity, which strives to end gun violence, the Oscar winner slayed a lip sync of Dusty Springfield’s version of "You Don’t Own Me" wearing a black tuxedo jacket, a sequined bra, and a whole lot of sass. Later on, the Ocean’s Eight actress grabbed her pink pussyhat to sing backup on a protest-themed version of Adele’s "Hello." In addition to making our day, it has reminded us – admittedly not for the first time – that we’re all in dire need of a Carol musical. You hear that, movie studio execs? Make it happen.

#cateblanchett #margeauxpowell @newtownactionalliance @thestonewallinn

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How to Dialogue through Successful Conflict Resolution

Conflict And Resolution WordsRelationships are hard work and in order to create healthy communication patterns, one must learn to have successful conflict resolutions. Many times you might find yourself at a communication impasse and feel increasing frustration.  It’s common to feel as though there isn’t a way around it and just to escape the conflict or to react negatively to it… but there is a better way.

Inter-personal conflicts are normal occurrences in relationships, work situations and anywhere you find someone disagreeing with your thinking! It can be overcome with good strategic skills and methodical responses, which we will explore here.

The first few things to look at when analyzing conflict is whether the conflict occurs often on the same subject, with the same person or at a particular time of the day which is possibly more stressful. The solution in these cases may be as easy as discussing deeper things at calmer times, or letting go of certain topics that are unimportant to the other person and sharing them with others who find them important.

Sometimes you may be having a conflict with someone who no longer values the same things you do, you find there is less and less in common, or there never seems to be a “middle ground” of agreement. In this case you need to decide if the friendship has mutual benefit and is worth salvaging. It takes too much energy to keep something viable on one side without mutuality, especially if you find as though you are the one to make concessions or accommodations to keep them happy. These are good indicators that this person is not a good intellectual match for you.

Secondly, remember that you are only responsible for your side of a dialogue and how you respond and engage with it. In any conflict, it’s all about sequential escalation. If one person approaches the other with a healthy question or statement but the next statement from the other person is an unhealthy one (involving any form of verbal abuse), then the dialogue should not continue but the abuse should be pointed out and disengage until that person can communicate in a healthy way. Do not enter into a dialogue if this first condition isn’t in place.  

Thirdly, when you are in a conflict, focus on what you are thinking and be aware of yourself. Do you listen well, ask questions, or have empathy? What your current habits? Do you get defensive, escape or detach from really listening? Intentionally slow down, think before you speak and listen more deeply to what and why something is being shared. Overcoming roadblocks to communication patterns is a learned skill and very much worth the effort because it will ease the stress on conflicts because you’ll learn to be less reactive and more engaged in a solution.

When you are in a conflict, it’s good to remember to stay open and curious so that you gain clarity. This will keep you from getting defensive or reactive. Ask questions to uncover more of what the person is trying to convey. What are they feeling? What solutions have they come up with?  How can you help? Having fluid thinking as opposed to fixed will allow you to listen well.  There may have been other conflicts that trigger a fixed response in you, but remain open to listening to what this current one is about.  

Lastly, remember that our brains change and grow over time (neuroplasticity) and these new ways of thinking create new patterns in our brain. You are re-wiring your brain to think differently the more you practice healthy dialogues when you encounter conflicts. You may have learned to respond in a certain way to conflicts, but that doesn’t mean that these habits can’t be un-learned. With practice, you learn to listen better, make more methodical decisions in what you say, grow more empathy, ask better questions, and come to solutions to the problem that the conflict is trying to uncover. You also learn to remain calm and engaged instead of frustrated and enraged. Again, being a student of yourself with each new conflict and seeing what exactly needs to be understood, then following the conversation in healthy dialogue until there is a mutual solution. You will find success!

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5 Tips on Getting Along with Others to Get Ahead

“Getting along with others is the essence of getting ahead, success being linked with cooperation.” – William Faulkner

Colorful Arrow Of Arrows Moving Up Lead By Red Arrow LeadingThere are many books, blogs and quotes on how to achieve success, many of which are completely genuine and offer wise tips. It can, however, be a bit overwhelming to try to sift through all the pages to find the one gem you need when you need it. Could it be that there’s something more basic to getting ahead? How about getting along with others? That’s essential to anyone’s desire to be successful, right?

For those who have a tough time putting their game face on, here are some tips on how to get along with others to get ahead:

If you don’t feel real, try faking it to start.

This doesn’t mean you outright lie to others, but plaster a smile on your face and force yourself to say something that can be heard by others as nice. “Have a great day” may sound tired and cliché, but it’s still a good, safe comment anyone can make. Just hearing those words may perk up someone who needs a little acknowledgement, and that’s always a good thing. Besides, don’t you feel a little lift when a cashier, your neighbor, the mailman or a stranger take the time to say something kind to you? It might be tough to force yourself to do this, but you’ll find it pays handsome dividends, and in more ways than you realize.

Keep a list of your good one-liners.

Think everyone else besides you is gifted with the talent to converse easily? They’re not. Many are shy, preferring to stay in the background rather than put themselves out there by initiating conversation. That’s where innocuous one-liners come in handy. Instead of always trying to reinvent the wheel, why not keep a list of the comments you’ve used when meeting others, leaving the office or a get-together, in passing at the market and other places? If they worked before to allow you to gently enter a conversation or gracefully exit, they’re worth saving and trotting out the next time you’re at a loss for words and really feel like you should be saying something nice.

Think of the other party doing something funny.

There’s an old saying that essentially says everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. Rich or poor, old or young, no matter who you are, this saying probably applies. If you are having a hard time getting along with someone — a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend — maybe trying to imagine that person doing something funny will break the ice. It will at least lift the corners of your mouth and that may be all it takes to get you going toward interacting on a more genuine level. Watch your facial expressions, however. You don’t want the other person looking at you laughing hilariously and looking in their direction for no discernible reason and wondering if there’s something wrong with you. Keep your thoughts to yourself. This is advice to help you see others as human, just like you. Humor softens the edges and makes the situation more approachable.

See how much you have in common.

While you might think that you are miles apart from having anything in common with someone you know you need to establish a working relationship with, try thinking of what you do have alike. For example, you both work at the same company, live in the same town, like espresso from the local coffee shop, wear blue a lot, and so on. Finding commonalities is a basic way to begin to bridge a divide that may exist and pave the way for cooperating on projects and tasks.

Practice.

If you’ve been a curmudgeon for a long time, you can’t be expected to nail this overnight. It helps to practice before a mirror or with someone you trust, such as a family member, loved one or friend. Try basic one-liners and general but kind statements to see how you do. Keep in mind your body language as well. Loosen up, take deep breaths so the oxygen is flowing and you’re not constricted and tense. This will benefit the words that come out of your mouth and help them feel more natural.

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6 Ways to Recover Your Mental Health

sunny-luck-ipad-businessIf you are emerging from a period of mental distress, the most important thing to remember is that you are the key person on the treatment team. Although other people can give you advice, encouragement, recommendations and even love, the ultimate person in charge of helping you get better is you. There are practical, doable, affordable steps you can take to work on your own recovery. By regularly following these steps, you can regain stability and get on with life.

1) Remind yourself that you are not alone.

Fully 20% of Americans report that they have symptoms of mental illness at some time in their lives. That’s 1 in 5 people! Sometimes life hands out more stress than a person can bear. Sometimes a person’s coping skills aren’t up to the task of coping. And sometimes mental health issues seem to descend out of the blue. Whatever the case, it’s not something to be ashamed of. Yes, there may be some people in your life who won’t understand or who will blame you or who will say things that are insensitive or unhelpful. But most people will only want to help.

2) Pay attention to your body as well as your mind.

What looks like mental illness isn’t always in a person’s head. If you are feeling uncomfortable in your own skin; if you are feeling emotionally fragile; if you are experiencing or re-experiencing symptoms of what you know to be mental illness – see your medical doctor first. Thyroid disorders, heart problems, even vitamin deficiencies can create symptoms that look like mental illness. Make sure you are physically healthy before you decide you have a psychological problem. If you find out you are medically fine but you still feel distressed, then it’s time to talk to a mental health professional.

3) Take care of your body — even when (especially when) you don’t feel like it.

Some people say they will take care of themselves once they feel better. It really doesn’t work that way. You will begin to feel better if you pay attention to self-care. Your mind needs a healthy body if you are to recover. Eat regular healthy meals. Limit caffeine and sugar. If you don’t feel like cooking, order take-out or stock up on frozen dinners that just require a zap in the microwave. Get enough sleep (which often means staying off screens after dinner time). Go for walks or exercise in another way that appeals to you. Take a shower and get dressed in clean clothes every day even if it feels like a lot of useless effort. If you treat yourself as if you are someone worth treating well, you will start to believe it.

4)  If your doctor prescribes medication, take it as prescribed.

Make sure you understand what the doctor thinks your medicine will do for you as well as the possible side-effects.

Don’t improvise. Take only the medicine you have been given, at the right dosage at the prescribed times. Pay attention to whether you should take it on an empty stomach or with food. Ask your doctor if there are foods or over the counter medications or supplements you should avoid. And, by all means, stay away from alcohol and recreational drugs!

If your medicine makes you uncomfortable in any way, talk to your doctor about it. Don’t just quit. Many psychiatric drugs need to be tapered off, not abruptly stopped if you are to stay safe. Your doctor may recommend a change in dosage or a change in medication.

5) Go to therapy.

The treatment of choice for most disorders is a combination of medication (at least for awhile) and talk therapy. A therapist will give you support and encouragement. Regular participation in your therapy will help you figure out how to better help yourself — but only if you take it seriously. A therapist is not a mind reader. A therapist only has what you tell him or her to work with. For therapy to be effective, you need to dig in and share your thoughts and feelings and to be willing to think carefully about ideas and suggestions your therapist makes.

If you don’t think the therapy is helping you or you don’t like your therapist’s approach, don’t just quit. Talk about it. These are the discussions that often lead to the most important new information about what is happening or how best to help.

6) Reach out to others.

Isolating (not talking to or spending time with others) may be tempting but it won’t help you. People do need people. Call a supportive friend or family member just to talk now and then. Join an online forum or support group. If you can’t find someone to talk to when you need to, call a warm-line or hotline. Once you are feeling even a little up to it, get involved in a charity or cause. Doing things with others for others is the best way to build your own self-esteem.

Recovery from mental illness sometimes does happen like magic, with symptoms disappearing as mysteriously as they came. But that’s really, really rare. Most of the time, recovery takes active treatment. But your professional helpers can only do so much. They need you to be an interested and active member of the team. By committing yourself to self-help as well as other-help, you can regain your stability — and your happiness — much more quickly.

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Why We Put Off Life’s Most Important Things

A clock with the words No Time Like the Present telling you to gNo question about it. Life is messy, complicated, complex and full of surprises. There’s always a lot to do and the feeling that there isn’t enough time to deal with what needs to be done. In fact, however, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to taking care of some of life’s most important decisions. Why do we put off what’s necessary, often inevitable, and can make such a difference? It often has a root in fear.

Fear of failure

Perhaps the biggest reason most people delay making a decision and taking action on something important is fear of failure. The thought of failing miserably, profoundly, publicly is so appalling that we’ll do almost anything to avoid experiencing this highly emotional aftermath. The result, predictably, is inaction. We don’t do anything, thus ensuring an unsatisfactory outcome.

A key lesson here is that there is no real failure if we learn from the mistake. While that may be difficult for perfectionists to accept, or disbelievers to rationalize, it’s true. Adopting the mindset that all experiences offer kernels of wisdom, if we’re open to receiving them, will help overcome the paralyzing fear of failure in the first place.

Fear of success

On the other hand, many people who don’t see failure as a barrier to action do see success as overly formidable. Success isn’t the end but the beginning, and it’s what comes after the success that’s often viewed as too demanding, involving, exhausting and, yes, public. For those who prefer to remain in the background and out of the spotlight, success is not the pinnacle. It’s to be avoided at all costs. Better to go along at medium speed than be thrust into the limelight by sudden success.

What can be done to get over a fear of success? Without a doubt, it takes some practice and a willingness to experience a little discomfort in the process. Success isn’t always grandiose. It doesn’t necessarily expose the one who achieves it to undue scrutiny, celebrity or countless demands from others. Think of accomplishing a goal to walk outside 15 minutes a day for a week as a success. Look forward to spending time with loved ones and family members after completing a workday as a success. The drip-drip-drip process of small successes will gradually fill the container with the good feeling that comes from doing what’s important and good — and successful.

Fear of criticism

Sometimes, it’s not being afraid of failing or succeeding that stands in the way of getting important things done. Instead, it’s the fear of being criticized by others. The most abhorred criticism is often from loved ones and family members, but can also come from a boss, co-workers, neighbors, friends, even people we don’t know. Past experiences involving harsh criticism and the resulting humiliation add to the fear of further criticism, often to the point of complete inaction on anything worthwhile. This isn’t living life joyously. It’s akin to being hollow, feeling nothing except fear.

The solution could well be to look closely at what prompts such fear. Is it that being criticized makes us feel inadequate, dumb, impractical, ineffective? Does it remind us of a harsh parent or bullying by classmates in our youth? Does criticism remind us that we haven’t prepared and hoped to skate without consequences? By examining the root of the fear, we rob the emotion of its power. Knowing is better than ignorance. It isn’t that criticism won’t sting, but we’ll be better able to withstand it and not crumple under its weight.

Fear that there’s nothing more

What if we do achieve success beyond our expectations or dreams? What, then? What if there’s nothing more? That’s the fear that stops many of us from pursuing what should be, even what we’ve always told ourselves is, our most important goals. Can it really be that once we get where we believe we want to go that that’s it?

Getting past this fear involves nurturing hope, for hope drives us forward and allows us to experience all that life offers. The knowledge that life is precious, short and unpredictable does nothing to deter the person who hopes. With hope, all things are possible. Indeed, even the most formidable project, task or pursuit takes on the aura of decidedly doable, imminently appealing and prompting motivation to get started.

Fear that we’re lacking

Ever get called on by a teacher unexpectedly and find yourself at a loss for words? That feeling of complete blankness isn’t pleasant, but it speaks to another reason why people put off tackling life’s most important things. We fear that we’re somehow inadequate, lacking in intelligence, drive, motivation, friends, allies, resources, money, talent and skills, even background.

Overcoming a fear of this kind is only accomplished by doing. Adequate preparation will mitigate some of the feeling of falling short when asked for our opinion or to deliver facts or a presentation on an impromptu basis. Making it a practice to absorb as much knowledge as possible from every experience will similarly help boost self-esteem and self-confidence. Instead of bluffing, we’ll have substance to back up our statements and actions. If we don’t know something, say so. There’s no harm in admitting it. However, if this is something we could benefit from, also make it a point to say that we’re interested and intend to learn more.

No matter what is on your to-do list, your dream or wish list, or a must-tackle list, instead of shying away because of one or another fear, address what’s holding you back head-on. After all, the point of living is to live joyously, fully and without reservations. Don’t let fear tempt you to put off what matters most.

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Laverne Cox’s Reaction to Finally Meeting Her Idol, Beyoncé, Is Not What You’d Expect

There are Beyoncé superfans, and then there is Laverne Cox. The Orange Is the New Black star is one of the most prominent members of the Beyhive, regularly paying tribute to her idol in flawless dance routines and look-alike photo shoots. Because of that, it might come as a surprise to know that when she finally met Queen Bey at the Grammys, she totally kept her cool. "I’ve often imagined this day, I’ve dreamed of the day," she told Stephen Colbert while appearing on The Late Show on Monday night. "The interesting thing about when you meet the queen, is that a calm comes over you, I swear to God." She went on to describe their meeting in detail, and it’s just as adorable as you’re hoping it would be. Of all the amazing things that happened at the Grammys on Sunday, we have to say this is one of the best.

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La Rotonde

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Le Coucou is a French restaurant in New York designed by Roman and Williams that is très popular. Now the chic design duo have renovated an actual French restaurant in Paris called La Rotonde de la Muette. Located in the 16th arrondissement, La Rotonde has been around for years but has new elegant interiors and terrasse perfect for people watching. Definitely put it on your must visit list.
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