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February 08 2018


Salary Hikes May Not Improve Job Satisfaction In The Long Run

Salary Hikes May Not Improve Job Satisfaction In The Long Run

A new study finds that while people tend to be more satisfied with their jobs after a salary raise, the satisfaction is often short-lived, especially if the salary bump is a one-time event.

Investigators discovered job satisfaction improves with the expectation of the raise even before the salary advancement, but then satisfaction fades within four years of the wage increase.

In the study, researchers from the University of Basel carried out an in-depth investigation on the relationship between job satisfaction and wage changes. The connection is important because retention of human capital is a major concern for employers.

Economists Drs. Patric Diriwaechter and Elena Shvartsman explain that job satisfaction is a predictor for employee longevity. Their study appears in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

For this study, almost 33,500 observations from the representative German Socio-Economic Panel were analyzed, with the majority of individuals indicating a job satisfaction of seven on a zero to 10 scale.

In line with expectations, the study found that job satisfaction was positively influenced by wage increases.

Social comparisons also played a part in this; job satisfaction increased further when an individual’s wage rose by more than his/her peers’ wages over the same period.

Moreover, the researchers showed that employees were already more satisfied with their jobs one year before the effective wage increase, i.e., they appeared to be positively influenced by the mere expectation of such an event.

However, the rise in job satisfaction after a wage increase is only temporary, as the effect almost fades out within four years.

According to behavioral-economic theory, this can be explained by the fact that people do not evaluate their income in absolute terms, but rather in relation to their previous income.

Furthermore, people adapt to their new wage level over time, so a higher salary becomes the new reference point for future comparisons.

The same mechanisms appeared to be at work in the opposite direction: Negative reactions to wage cuts were surprisingly temporary.

Researcher believe this observation is consistent with reference point adaptations and social comparisons — since most wage cuts are associated with company- or industry-specific shocks, they typically also affect the respective individuals’ colleagues.

All in all, investigators conclude that wage increases can be a tool to motivate employees, yet only under carefully designed conditions.

For instance, the possibility of a wage increase should be implemented regularly and often accompanied by promotions. Therefore, a small merit raise every year may be more effective than a larger, less frequent increase.

Source: University of Basel

February 07 2018


Manage the Unspoken Messages You’re Sending Others

Clear your negative thoughts and align with a more loving and warm-hearted energy before you speak or act.

We have all experienced the impact of our words and actions in relationships. When we say something mean or snarky, people tend to react with either a return attack or defensiveness. What we tend to be far less aware of is the power of the energy we are holding when we say and do things. For instance, if you are visiting family during the holidays and say, “So great to see you again!” while thinking far less kind sentiments, the negative energy transmitted may well get a negative reaction in spite of the kind words.

Couples come to me saying that what they want is to have a loving, healthy relationship, but what they are thinking about each other (or themselves) is negative and judgmental. What we often don’t realize is how deeply intuitive and sensitive human beings are — whether we know it or not. We pick up on vibrational messages regardless of what is said, so when someone is thinking something negative while saying something positive we perceive the dissonance. We become confused between the message sent and the message felt. We find ourselves reacting often without fully understanding what we are reacting to, since on the surface the words or actions may have been positive.

We need to learn to manage the invisible, energetic messages we send out and aim to align our energy with the intended result. These unseen and unheard messages are capable of creating just as big of a reaction from others as their verbal counterparts, and we would all be well served to develop mastery over them.

I teach an entrepreneurial program for teens and adults and illustrate this concept by teaching handshaking — a common business greeting. We first discuss how not to shake hands. Everyone quickly agrees that the limp or the overdone handshakes are unnerving. With the offer of a limp hand we quickly make one of two assumptions: we either experience self-judgment, “She doesn’t want to meet me,” or judge the other person, “He has no confidence.” One way or the other, inward or outward, there is assumed judgment, which causes a disconnect. After discussing eye contact, smiling, and appropriate firmness I then demonstrate the power of the invisible space.

First, I have everyone mill around shaking hands incorrectly, while holding the belief that no one really wants to meet them, and that they have nothing to offer anyone in the room. As they hold this mindset while shaking hands the energy is sucked out of the room. The voices drop, no one smiles, they barely look at each other and the handshakes are pathetic. When I ask what that felt like, the responses include disconnected, lonely, uncomfortable, awful. Sometimes, unfortunately, it feels quite familiar.

Then I have them mill around shaking hands exaggerating or faking their enthusiasm. The internal energy is one of having to impress the other. The room gets loud as people sarcastically and enthusiastically greet each other with overdone handshakes, bear hugs, and pats on the back. When I ask how that felt, the answers are much the same, fake, untrustworthy, and lonely but often scary gets added in.

So then we practice managing the invisible space in a healthier way. I invite everyone to take a deep breath, drop into trust that there are people in the room who will offer value to them and that they all have value to offer others. I encourage them to let go of judgment of themselves and others and simply show up authentically as they greet each other. As they set about their assigned task, the energy in the room changes again. This time it feels warm and friendly as everyone is meeting, looking into each other’s eyes, smiling and shaking hands authentically happy to connect. When I ask them to describe the difference the words used are real, connected, heartfelt. All three parts to this exercise held the exact same physical directions: mill around the room, shake hands and meet everyone. The only difference between what worked and what didn’t work was the mindset or energetic belief that was held internally. This internal shift makes the difference between experiencing loneliness or connection during the exact same behavior.

We can apply this principle in all of our relationships by taking responsibility for the energy or attitude we are holding when relating to others.

The invitation here is to take a moment to clear your negative thoughts and align with a more loving and warm-hearted energy before you speak, act or even press send on an email or text.

Practice this mindful mastery of the unspoken messages you are sending and see if you can shift your relationships into a healthier place.

This post courtesy of Spirituality & Health.


How Do You Know When Your Depression Is Improving?

Like the change in seasons, it's hard to know definitively when depression has lifted. Here are eight signs to look for.
Blue binders of white donors: sorting race out in South African IVF by Tessa Moll

Are You a Mom Who Holds These Stress-Boosting, Joy-Squashing Beliefs?

Moms hold a variety of beliefs that stress us out and squash our joy. Beliefs about who we should be and how we should feel. Beliefs about how we should work and parent and practice self-care. Beliefs about what we should get done. Beliefs about what we must expect from ourselves.

Many of Emma Basch’s clients feel massive pressure to “lean in” in all areas of their lives. And if they don’t move up at work, be fully involved in their child’s school, manage their household and have an active social life, they feel a profound sense of failure.

One client bashed herself for buying cookies instead of baking them for her kids’ school party. Other clients viewed their decision to use flex time or work at 80 percent “as a failure rather than a valid and healthy choice,” said Basch, Psy.D, a psychologist who pens the Psych Central blog Maternity Matters.

Moms also mistakenly think that mothering is intuitive, said psychologist Julie Bindeman, Psy.D. And if it doesn’t come intuitively or naturally or automatically, they assume there’s something inherently wrong with them. Because, suddenly, there are plenty of examples of moms who make mothering look instinctive and innate and oh-so simple.

But parenting requires skills, which are sharpened with practice. Bindeman, co-director of Integrative Therapy of Greater Washington, likened parenting to driving. It’s rare for anyone to sit behind the wheel for the first time and actually drive well—or drive flawlessly on the highway. Even before turning on the car, we check the mirrors, adjust our seats and see if anyone is behind us, she said. We hesitate, and we feel awkward and apprehensive.

“So why should parenting (or any other new skill) be assumed that it will be easy just because it is something that humanity does?”

Similarly, moms think they need to be perfect parents—or they’ll damage their kids, said Elizabeth Gillette, LCSW, an attachment-focused therapist in Asheville, N.C., who specializes in working with individuals and couples as their families grow.

Today, we’re paying closer and closer attention to our parenting, and we’re more focused on our kids than generations past. Which is a good thing, but it’s also created immense pressure to always be aware and attuned to our kids’ needs, Gillette said. And this is “really damaging.”

Gillette’s clients tend to fixate on the moments they feel terribly inadequate. For instance, within several hours, moms play with their kids, talk to them and make eye contact for about 75 percent of the time. For the other time, they prepare dinner or pay the bills or fold laundry or get distracted—and think they’re failing their child by focusing on something else.

In reality, researcher and developmental and clinical psychologist Ed Tronick, Ph.D, has found that secure attachment happens when parents are attuned to their kids just 30 percent of the time. “[T]he most important piece of this is to ‘repair’ when mother and child are out of sync with each other,” Gillette said. This might look like mom getting down to her child’s level, reflecting back the emotions they’re experiencing, responding with empathy and soothing them, she said.

Moms also compare themselves to other moms, and not surprisingly, come up short. Wow, she always seems so calm with her kids. Nothing seems to rattle her. She’s always so put together. How does she have time for everything? Everything!

“As humans, we often look for proof that our beliefs about ourselves are true, so if we believe others are better mothers, we will seek out the people who seem to have it all together and compare ourselves to them.”

Gillette has found that marriage is another source of comparison-making. Some moms think: “’That couple seems so much more connected than we do,’” which creates further feelings of isolation, sadness, and feeling not-enough.”

Another belief that sparks these feelings, according to Gillette, is: “If I was doing this right, I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed/burdened/angry/sad.” We assume that when we’re doing something right, it’s easy. But parenting is too complicated for that. It’s also made harder by the fact that many people live far away from loved ones, and “there is little support for families in our society in general.”

Bindeman and Gillette both stressed the importance of having candid, vulnerable conversations with other moms. Because whatever you’re thinking, feeling and struggling with, other moms are thinking, feeling and struggling with, too. You might talk to your closest friends or join a group of moms. For instance, in Asheville, N.C., some doula agencies, including Homegrown Babies and The Mothership, offer support groups.

Bindeman also encouraged moms to prioritize their self-care. In fact, she asks her mom clients to start early when their kids are infants: They leave the house with their baby every day, whether it’s to take a walk, run an errand or attend a play date. And they spend at least 30 minutes a week by themselves, also out of the house. They might meet up with friends, read a book at a café, browse an art gallery, or do anything else they genuinely enjoy and that connects them to their core identity.

If you feel guilty about carving out some alone time, remember that “taking care of yourself is taking care of your family,” Basch said.

And, ultimately, remember these other powerful words from Basch: “Doing your best is not the same as having to be the best.” You don’t need to be the perfect person, partner and mom who prioritizes everyone over herself, who’s closely and constantly attuned to her kids. That’s impossible. And it’s unhealthy.

You can be you, a multifaceted, multidimensional human being who messes up and makes mistakes and makes amends. Who shows her kids that you can care for yourself and accept yourself and forgive yourself and learn significant lessons when you flounder and fail and embrace your humanity. Which is so much more valuable and vital than perfection can ever provide.


Do Conservatives Have a Monopoly on Antiscientific Thinking?

In recent years, conservatives have rejected scientific consensus on global warming and evolution by natural selection. But are both sides selectively antiscientific?

Bilingualism May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

Bilingualism May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

Research over the past decade has confirmed that knowing more than one language is associated with brain health.

A new study takes this a step further suggesting bilingualism thickens the brain providing a protective layer from atrophy associated with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition associated with aging, and is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

In describing the study, Concordia University researchers explain that “most of the previous research on brain structure was conducted with healthy younger or older adults.”

“Our new study contributes to the hypothesis that having two languages exercises specific brain regions and can increase cortical thickness and grey matter density. And it extends these findings by demonstrating that these structural differences can be seen in the brains of multilingual AD and MCI patients,” explains Natalie Phillips, a professor in the Department of Psychology.

Phillips’s study, led by recent Concordia psychology grad Hilary D. Duncan will appear in a forthcoming issue of Neuropsychologia.

Phillips and her team are the first to use high-resolution, whole-brain MRI data and sophisticated analysis techniques to measure cortical thickness and tissue density within specific brain areas.

Namely, they investigated language and cognition control areas in the frontal regions of the brain, and medial temporal lobe structures that are important for memory and are brain areas known to atrophy in MCI and AD patients.

“Previous studies used CT scans, which are a much less sensitive measure,” says Phillips. The study looked at MRIs from participating patients from the Jewish General Hospital Memory Clinic in Montreal.

Their sample included 34 monolingual MCI patients, 34 multilingual MCI patients, 13 monolingual AD patients, and 13 multilingual AD patients.

Phillips believes their study is the first to assess the structure of MCI and AD patients’ language and cognition control regions. It is also the first to demonstrate an association between those regions of the brain and memory function in these groups, and the first to control for immigration status in these groups.

“Our results contribute to research that indicates that speaking more than one language is one of a number of lifestyle factors that contributes to cognitive reserve,” Phillips says.

“They support the notion that multilingualism and its associated cognitive and sociocultural benefits are associated with brain plasticity.”

The new knowledge will be used by Phillips and her team to explore if multilingual people have unique brain wiring that helps them better manage the aging process.

“Our study seems to suggest that multilingual people are able to compensate for AD-related tissue loss by accessing alternative networks or other brain regions for memory processing. We’re actively investigating that hypothesis now.”

Source: Concordia University


Do OTC Pain Meds Affect Thoughts and Emotions?

Do OTC Pain Meds Affect Thoughts and Emotions?

Provocative new research suggests over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen may influence how people process information, experience hurt feelings, and react to emotionally evocative images.

University of California, Santa Barbara researchers Kyle Ratner, Amanda R. Kaczmarek, and Youngki Hong reviewed published literature suggesting that over-the-counter pain medicine do more than just relieve pain.

Their findings appear in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

The literature review suggests over-the-counter pain medicine may influence individuals’:

  • Sensitivity to emotionally painful experiences: Compared to those who took placebos, women who took a dose of ibuprofen reported less hurt feelings from emotionally painful experiences, such as being excluded from a game or writing about a time when they were betrayed. Men showed the opposite pattern.
  • Ability to empathize with the pain of others: Compared to those taking placebos, individuals who took a dose of acetaminophen were less emotionally distressed while reading about a person experiencing physical or emotional pain and felt less regard for the person.
  • Ability to process information: Compared to those who took placebos, individuals who took a dose of acetaminophen made more errors of omission in a game where they were asked, at various times, either to perform or to not perform a task.
  • Reactions to emotional objects: Individuals who took a dose of acetaminophen rated pleasant and unpleasant photographs less extremely than those who took placebos.
  • Discomfort from parting with possessions: When asked to set a selling price on an object they owned, individuals who took a dose of acetaminophen set prices that were cheaper than the prices set by individuals who took placebos.

If additional studies confirm the findings, regulatory officials would have to assess potential public health risks and benefits. “In many ways, the reviewed findings are alarming,” say the researchers.

“Consumers assume that when they take an over-the-counter pain medication, it will relieve their physical symptoms, but they do not anticipate broader psychological effects.”

Researchers explain that while the medicine(s) could have new potential for helping people deal with hurt feelings, more studies are needed to examine if the medications are truly effective for mental health.

Moreover, studies are needed to determine if the medications could have negative effects for people who take the meds with other pharmaceuticals or among people who are depressed and have difficulty feeling pleasure.

Source: Sage/EurekAlert

Reposted byphin phin

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome May be More Common Than Thought

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome May be More Common Than Thought

Up to five percent of American children in a new study were found to be affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The research involved more than 6,000 first-graders in the Pacific Southwest, Midwest, Rocky Mountain, and Southeast regions of the U.S.

FASD is a general term describing a wide variety of effects that can occur in a child whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Some of the features include a small head, below average weight and height, difficulty with learning and behavioral problems.

The new findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, may reflect more accurate prevalence estimates of FASD among the general population than previous research.

“Our comprehensive approach reflects estimates that more closely resemble the prevalence of FASD in the United States and further highlight the burden of the disorders,” said Christina Chambers, Ph.D., MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of California (UC) San Diego School of Medicine.

“Our results suggest that the rate of FASD in children in the United States is as high or higher than autism spectrum disorders (ASD),” said Chambers, who is also co-director of the University of California, San Diego Center for Better Beginnings.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates the frequency of ASD at 14.6 per 1,000 eight year-olds.

Historically, estimating the prevalence of FASD has been complex due to challenges in obtaining information on prenatal alcohol use and in identifying physical and neurobehavioral characteristics of the disorders, said Chambers.

For the new study, first-graders were recruited across two academic years and evaluated based on current FASD criteria. Prenatal alcohol exposure was assessed by interviewing the children’s mothers or other close relatives.

FASD prevalence ranged from approximately 11 to 50 children per 1,000 per region, with the lowest estimate in one Midwestern region sample, and the highest in one Rocky Mountain region sample. Previous data suggests the estimated frequency in the U.S. is 10 per 1,000 children.

Of the 222 children diagnosed with FASD in the study, only two had been previously diagnosed, although many parents and guardians were aware of the children’s learning and behavioral challenges.

“Our findings suggest that FASD is a critical health problem that often goes undiagnosed and misdiagnosed,” said Chambers. “Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and neurological abnormalities in the United States. It can cause a range of developmental, cognitive, and behavioral problems, which may be recognized at any time during childhood and can last a lifetime.”

In a survey by the U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of more than 8,000 pregnant women, 10 percent reported recent drinking and three percent reported at least one “binge” episode within the previous 30 days. A pattern of binge drinking during pregnancy is thought to present the highest risk for FASD.

“Although our findings from the four regions may not represent the nation overall, our goal is that the estimates will contribute to strategies that will expand screening, prevention, and treatment options for FASD,” said Chambers. “It is imperative that we find a solution to this devastating health issue.”

Source: University of California, San Diego


Twitter Used as Research Tool for America’s Psyche

Twitter Used as Research Tool for America’s Psyche

Researchers are mining data from tweets to gain insights on human behavior. Big data analytics allow investigators to examine content from a large number of tweets, and to run online experiments to better understand individual behavior.

For example, Emory University psychologists discovered individuals who tend to think further into the future are more likely to invest money and to avoid risks. They made this determination by conducting text analyses of nearly 40,000 Twitter users, and then performing online experiments of the behavior of people who provided their Twitter handles.

The research appears in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The researchers also found an association between longer future-sightedness and less risky decision-making at a U.S. state population level. “Twitter is like a microscope for psychologists,” says co-author Phillip Wolff.

“Naturalistic data mined from tweets appears to give insights not just into tweeters’ thoughts at a particular time, but into a relatively stable cognitive process. Using social media and big-data analytical tools opens up a new paradigm in the way we study human behavior.”

Co-author Robert Thorstad, an Emory Ph.D. candidate came up with the idea for the research, worked on the design and analyses, and conducted the experiments.

“I’m fascinated by how peoples’ everyday behavior can give away a lot of information about their psychology,” Thorstad says.

“Much of our work was automated, so we were able to analyze millions of Tweets from thousands of individuals’ day-to-day lives.”

The future-sightedness found in individuals’ tweets was short, usually just a few days, which differs from prior research suggesting future sightedness on the order of years.

“One possible interpretation is that the difference is due to a feature of social media,” Wolff says. Another possible reason, he adds, is that prior studies explicitly asked individuals how far they thought into the future while the PNAS paper used the imbedded measures of previous tweets.

While the relationship between future-sightedness and decision-making may seem obvious, the researchers note that previous findings on the subject have not been consistent. However, these inconsistencies may be due to factors such as observer bias in a laboratory setting and small sample sizes.

The PNAS paper used a variety of methods (such as the Stanford CoreNLP natural language processing toolkit and SUTime, a rule-based temporal tagger built on regular expression patterns) to automatically analyze Twitter text trails previously left by individual subjects.

Experimental data was gathered using the Amazon crowdsourcing tool Mechanical Turk, a web site where individuals can complete psychology experiments and other internet-based tasks. Participants in the Mechanical Turk experiments were asked to supply their Twitter handles.

In one experiment for the PNAS paper, Mechanical Turk participants answered a classic delay discounting question, such as: Would you prefer $60 today or $100 in six months?

The participants’ Tweets were also analyzed. Future orientation was measured by the tendency of participants to tweet about the future compared to the past. Future-sightedness was measured based on how often tweets referred to the future, and how far into the future.

The results showed that future orientation was not associated with investment behavior, but that individuals with far future-sightedness were more likely to choose to wait for future rewards than those with near future-sightedness.

This suggests that investment behavior depends on how far individuals think into the future and not their tendency to think about the future in general.

A second Mechanical Turk experiment used a digital Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART). In this exercise, participants’ could earn real money every time they inflated a balloon, but each inflation could lead to the balloon popping, resulting in no money earned for that trial.

If participants stopped inflating before the balloon popped, they could bank the money that they have earned and proceed to the next trial.

The BART participants’ tweets were also analyzed. The results showed that those with longer future-sightedness were less likely to take the risk of fully inflating the balloon.

Another study in the PNAS paper focused on Twitter users whose profiles tied them to a particular state. About eight million of their tweets were analyzed for future-sightedness.

The researchers measured a state’s risk-taking behaviors at the population level using the proxy of publicly available statistics, such as seat-belt compliance rates, drunken driving rates, and teen-aged pregnancy rates. The results showed that shorter future-sightedness measures for tweets from individual states correlated closely to higher rates of risky behaviors, in a pattern similar to the results of the individual experimental studies.

To measure a state’s investment behavior, the researchers used state statistics for spending on state parks, pre-kindergarten education, highways, and per-pupil education. The researchers found that states that invested more in these areas were associated with tweets from individuals with longer future-sightedness, but not at a statistically significant level.

The researchers controlled for state demographics such as political orientation, per capita income, household income, and GDP. “We found that, while demographics are important, they couldn’t explain away the effects of future-thinking,” Wolff says.

The estimated 21 percent of American adults who use Twitter tend to be younger and more technologically literate than the general population, Thorstad concedes. But he adds that Twitter’s demographics are not that far off from the general population in terms of gender, economic status and education levels. And the percentages of Twitter users living in rural, urban, and suburban areas are virtually the same.

“Twitter can provide a much broader participant pool than many psychology experiments that primarily use undergraduates as subjects,” Thorstad notes. “Big-data methods may ultimately improve generalizability for psychology results.”

“Through social media, we’re amassing huge amounts of data on ourselves, behaviorally and over time, that is leaving behind a kind of digital phenotype,” Wolff adds.

“We’re now in an age where we have big-data analytical tools that can extract information to tell us something indirectly about an individual’s cognitive life, and to predict what an individual might do in the future.”

Source: Emory Health Sciences


Practical Exercises Can Help in Addiction Recovery

Because relapse is often a reality in recovery of any addiction, keeping oneself engaged in continued practical skills can help create hopeful outcomes. The 1997 version of the movie  Titanic  cost over 200 million dollars to produce, however, the movie eventually grossed over 1.8 billion dollars! Recovery takes a lot of time and energy, but in the long run, it is well worth it. Like in the production of the movie Titanic , when much is put in, much greater is gained.

A Few Practical Exercises to Try

Here are a few practical exercises you (or someone you know) can use in the recovery process that may be helpful. Keep in mind, however that while these may be helpful, they are not exclusive, nor intended to replace formal counseling. Sponsorship or mentorship is also an integral aspect to the recovery process:

  1. Join in: When geese fly in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent flying range than if each bird flew on its own. Whenever a goose falls out of the formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go at it alone. People who share common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

    For this exercise get involved with an organized group or club with emphasis on being with others. The group can be either religious or secular. Start off with making a list of prospective organizations or clubs that you wish to connect with, and then list their contact information. Then contact them and get the specifics. Then visit them. Once you find your niche, then highlight it and start attending regularly. Make this your new habit.
  2. Clean out the house: You may be holding onto phone numbers of past users or enablers telling yourself, “I’ll hold on to these contacts so I can reach out and help them when I’m better.” The bottom line is that you have to clean the slate. In this practical behavioral exercise, clear out old phone numbers; clean out those things around the house, office, car, or any other area that has fed into your addiction. Address and telephone logs (written or electronic) are examples. This creates a safer environment for you in your recovery.
  3. Identifying and fixing your triggers: What specifically makes you tick? In this exercise think about what triggers there are to your addiction. Triggers can be things like free time on certain times of the day, or driving past a particular bar or other places. Whatever your triggers are, come up with strategies to fix them. For example, if a particular place is a trigger then the “fix it” strategy would be to not drive past that place. Plan another route. Much of this involves a behavioral change, but fixing triggers lessens the gateway to relapse and promotes a better recovery environment.
  4. Pick their brain: For this exercise, list three or more people who have had a problem with addiction and have been helped. If you don’t know of anyone personally, ask someone for referrals. You could attend a self-help meeting and search for individuals who have sustained recovery time. Many people who have recovery time are willing to help others and open to talk about their experiences. Go to at least three of these people and ask them for their advice or assistance. Pay attention to any skills they have used to help in their recovery. Record their responses. Use this feedback as inspiration for yourself.
  5. Say good-bye: Whether you like to think of it this way of not, you have had a close relationship with your addiction. It has been an arena full of excitements, although followed by let downs, it has filled a large void in your life. It has occupied a lot of your time, whether it was in your head or in acting-out activities. At some point you have to put an end to your relationship with it. It is very much like a loss, such as losing a friend or getting a divorce. While it is best to leave it, there will be some pain involved. It is a voluntary decision.

    If you are ready to say goodbye to it, then write a good-bye letter. In your letter, tell the addiction what it did to you, what you won’t miss, and the new joy you’ll have. Share your grief, what you’ll miss about it, what adaptations it served for you. Tell it how it has been replaced. Finally, tell it how it needs to go way and stay away and how you will live your life without it.

Beating addiction is hard work and people need lots of help and lots of ways to get through it. But keep in mind, others have beat it, so can you, and there’s help and support available!

To learn more about these exercises and others, refer to the author’s workbook:  The Addictions Recovery Workbook: 101 Practical Exercise for Individuals and Groups  (3 rd Ed.) available at on Amazon.


What Underlying Brain Dysconnectivity Causes Mental Illness?

Stunning neuroscience research reveals a potential common cause for psychiatric illness identifiable in adolescence, and suggests avenues for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

February 06 2018

Book Forum––Des Fitzgerald’s Tracing Autism: Uncertainty, Ambiguity, and the Affective Labor of Neuroscience by Todd Meyers

5 Anxiety Warning Signs You Might Not Notice


Anxiety does its job by getting your attention. But what if you’re not noticing it?

Signs of anxiety can be obvious, and not so obvious.

Anxiety can ‘yell’ at you, flash you into panic, and fuel that familiar pit in your stomach that tells you something’s wrong. Most of us know and understand this kind of acute anxiety. But this isn’t the only kind of anxiety and certainly isn’t the only kind of anxiety that’s useful.

Some signs of anxiety are more like a quiet whisper that nags you, drags you down, and frankly irritates you. This is your discomfort is doing its job: to get your attention and prompt you to find a solution.

12 Life Skills Only People with Anxiety Can Teach You

1. You Worry Early in the Morning.

Quiet anxiety seldom occupies center stage in our daytime awareness and instead, often presents in the quieter moments that end and begin our day.

Worrying about how to afford your next vacation, for example, may not be something that grabs your attention when you are surfing the web and getting ideas, but just might be on your mind when you wake up.

Financial awareness is an important element of planning a vacation that is fun and affordable. The worry signals a problem that still needs solving.

2. You Dream About It.

If you are lucky enough to remember your dreams, you will have yet another avenue for accessing your quieter worries.

Dreaming of being late to school and missing an exam? You might need stronger strategies for juggling your many responsibilities. Dreaming of losing your temper with your mom? You might need better ways to speak up in your relationships.

Once you identify the anxiety your dreams are signaling, you can use it to build better solutions.

3. You Get Nagging Thoughts.

Sometimes you just can’t stop thinking about that thing that’s bothering you. Are you really doing your best at work? Are your children getting enough of your attention, did you hurt your friend’s feelings inadvertently?

These are the kinds of nagging thoughts that signal background worries that are legitimate, and worthy of our attention, even if none are urgent. We tend to worry about the things that are too long on the ‘back burner’ as we attend to ‘front burner’ demands, and this worry can direct us to re-balance our efforts when needed.

9 Ways Successful People Turn Their Anxiety Into Something Powerful

4. You’re Seeing It Everywhere.

Sometimes our biggest worries are right under our nose, but we are too close — or scared — to label them directly. Instead, we seem to see the issue everywhere we look, and can’t help but complain about it. Feeling surrounded by people who don’t take enough responsibility, for example, might not be a benign annoyance.

Key people in your life may not be doing enough of their share either and this deeper anxiety is triggered every time you interact with a similar situation. Feeling surrounded by an issue is the clue you are quietly worrying about it closer to home, and the impetus to take action.

5. Increased Irritability.

Another way our anxiety tries to speak to us is through irritation and elevated emotions. Anxiety can be an emotional escalator, adding an extra punch to anything you feel.

Irritability can be a signal of low-grade anxiety that needs your attention and focus. Asking yourself what you are most afraid of can help access your worries and frame where you need to focus your problem-solving attention.

When your anxiety won’t shut up, either yelling or nagging you, it is signaling a problem you need to face and inviting you to dig in even if you don’t want to.

Be it that early morning put in your stomach, a bizarre nightmare, or a surge of irritability, your anxiety is there to help you. Facing it is the first step in doing something about it, and changing your situation for the better.

Your anxiety is speaking to you all the time, sending you constant messages about the things you care about most. When we don’t listen to our body’s signals, our anxiety kicks in by sending different signals.

This is anxiety doing its best job. The sooner we key into the message anxiety is trying to tell us, the sooner we can use it to our best advantage.

This guest article originally appeared on 5 Meaningful Signs of Anxiety That You May Be Missing.


Video: How Do I Get My Loved One to Go to Therapy?


Talk Back: What suggestions can you share to help a reluctant person see a therapist? What techniques have worked on others or worked on you? There are no wrong answers and please read the comments to look for inspiration. Thank you, Gabe

“Loved One Therapy” Video Transcript

I get asked a lot how people can talk their loved ones in to going to therapy when the loved one doesn’t want to.

There’s a few different ways to approach this and a few different ways to answer it. The first thing is, you can’t make your loved one go to therapy. Therapy doesn’t work if people don’t want to go.

So I tend to take a different approach. First, if I think that my friend would benefit from therapy, I try to remember that. I try not to use words like, “my friend needs therapy.” Instead, I think that my friend would benefit from therapy.

Another strategy you could use to help talk your friend into going to therapy is to ask them to do it as a personal favor to you. Let them know that while they believe they don’t need therapy, and you respect that, you would really like them to go. Let them know that you believe that they would benefit from it, even though they don’t believe it. Ask if they will go as a favor to you. Just say, “Hey, will you try it a few times? If you get no benefit out of it, you can quit, and I will never bring it up again. I just ask that you keep an open mind and that you take it seriously.”

Depending on your relationship with the person this may work. There are many things I have done in my life because my wife, or my mother, or my grandmother asked me to do it.  Things that I didn’t want to do and things that I didn’t think would benefit me. Sometimes they were right, and sometimes they were wrong. But the reason that I found myself doing it was to honor the relationship that I had with them. And because we do things for our loved ones that we might not necessarily do for ourselves.

I really believe that the key is to find out why they are not going. What about the process or the idea of therapy don’t they like? It’s usually based on a misconception; it is usually based on a misunderstanding. Or it is based on their fear of talking to a stranger about something. This is what I believe the reasons are and I explain how I handled it.

Because if we are all honest with each other, the very first time we went to a therapist was kind of a scary thing. I was expected to tell a therapist my deepest, darkest secrets. That sounds frightening. But that is not what happened. I went to a therapist, I sat down, and the therapist asked me basic questions. Questions about my life.

Questions about my past and where I wanted to be in the future. And I slowly built a rapport and started working with a therapist about things in my life that I wanted to improve.

We don’t need to show up with our therapist on day one and talk about our mother or talk about our past trauma.  We can talk about the little things in our lives.  And once we start getting those little successes, working with our therapist, then we can move on to bigger things. So many people believe that in the first minute of the first appointment on the first day they are going to have to talk about something that has frightened them for years.  That is unreasonable and it is unrealistic. But I think a lot of people really believe that is what is going to happen. Help them understand that isn’t how therapy works, and that therapy moves at a pace that is set by the patient. Not a pace that is set by the therapist.



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Brief Questionnaire Aids Autism Diagnosis

Brief Questionnaire Aids Autism Diagnosis

A two-minute questionnaire for parents can provide meaningful insights that help pediatricians and other primary care providers detect autism in toddlers.

Early detection of the disorder at this neurodevelopmental stage is critical for enhancing outcomes.

Researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School say the Psychological Development Questionnaire (PDQ-1), developed at Rutgers, has an 88 percent likelihood of correctly identifying which of the youngsters that screened positive because of the questionnaire had autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Lead investigator Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics believes the findings provide preliminary evidence in support of the PDQ-1. The study appears in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Researchers reviewed the results from 1,959 18- to 36-month-old children who participated in the study. Each child received screening through a network of cooperating pediatric practices in Essex and Union counties and were not known to have any developmental problems.

Those who got low PDQ-1 scores were considered to be at risk of ASD and received comprehensive developmental evaluations to determine whether they were on the spectrum. The new screening test correctly identified autism in children from all socioeconomic communities.

“Even though autism awareness is high in New Jersey and we have some excellent resources, too many children, especially from low-income communities, are identified late. The availability of valid and efficient screeners, like the PDQ-1, may enhance our ability to detect ASD in young children and expand the number of youngsters receiving early intervention,” Zahorodny said.

Some of the PDQ-1 questions posed to parents include whether the child points or gestures to show interest or get attention, responds to their name, enjoys playing peek-a-boo, speaks in phrases, and relates to others.

Zahorodny, believes the new tools may provide a practical alternative to the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers and the follow-up (M-CHAT-R/F) — which requires a telephone interview in addition to screening.

While the early detection of ASD is challenging, and no single behavioral or observational approach is likely to be reliable for all children, the Rutgers researchers believe their new screening method is promising and deserves wider application and study.

“Diagnosis of autism can only be accomplished through comprehensive evaluation by a professional,” Zahorodny said.

“Effective screening is but the first step toward diagnosis. If we want to improve early detection, easy-to-use and reliable autism screeners need to be widely used.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children have ASD. Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but is three to four times more common in boys.

Though the American Academy of Pediatricians has urged pediatricians to screen all children for ASD at 18 and 24 months, since 2007, it is estimated that only half of all children are screened at that age.

Source: Rutgers University


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Middle Age Mental Health is Strong in Finland

Middle Age Mental Health is Strong in Finland

A new study finds the mental health of middle-aged individuals may be surprisingly robust. Finnish investigators used a unique data set where a group of nearly 370 people have been followed from age eight to 50. They discovered that over time, four groups of mental well-being emerged.

The novel data set was the product of individual participation in the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS) for over 40 years.

The longitudinal study allowed researchers to capture data for multiple dimensions of mental well-being — including satisfaction with life and psychological and social well-being — over time.

Psychological well-being refers to an individual’s sense of having a purpose in life and personal growth, whereas social well-being is characterized by a sense of environmental mastery and acceptance.

Investigators assessed mental health when the study participants were 36, 42, and 50 years old. Research Director Katja Kokko from the Gerontology Research Center at the University of Jyväskylä explains:

“Our analyses provided two new perspectives to the study of mental well-being: First, we included positive dimensions of mental well-being and did not consider it only as an absence of mental distress.

“Second, while it is common to analyze an average developmental trend of mental well-being over time, we looked for groups of individuals differing in their developmental trajectories.”

During the follow-up period, four groups of mental well-being emerged.

Twenty-nine percent of participants were classified as having a high level of life satisfaction as well as psychological and social well-being throughout the study period.

Further, 47 percent had a relatively high and 22 percent a moderately high level of mental well-being.

Conversely, about three percent of the participants had a relatively low score in all the well-being dimensions from age 36 to 50.

“It was a bit unexpected how stable mental well-being was in mid-adulthood and that a majority of the middle-aged had such a high level of well-being,” Kokko explains.

“However, it should be noted that the follow-up intervals were rather long, about six to eight years, and it is possible that within those years mental well-being fluctuated but then returned to an individual’s characteristic level.”

The groups of mental well-being were compared to each other in other areas of functioning as well.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the individuals on the trajectories for high, relatively high, and moderate well-being had more satisfying relationships, more favorable working careers, and fewer diseases than those individuals on the low well-being trajectory.

Few differences between the groups were observed in physical or cognitive functioning.

“We found that only stable low mental well-being — developed over a lengthy period of time, was a risk factor for unfavorable relationships, working career, and health,” Kokko says.

“In older adulthood, mental well-being will possibly also relate to physical and cognitive functioning when there is more variation among the individuals in these areas.”

The present analyses shed light on the development of multi-dimensionally assessed mental well-being in mid-adulthood. They further help identify those groups of individuals who are at the greatest risk. Improving their mental well-being can contribute to functioning in old adulthood.

Source: University of Jyväskylä


Even Meditation Has Limitations

Even Meditation Has Limitations

A new review of a variety of meditation studies suggests that while meditation has its benefits, its role in improving compassion may have been overstated.

The finding comes after decades of claims that meditation can change how we behave towards others and make us more compassionate. The new research suggests meditation’s role in making individuals better people is limited.

Scientists at Coventry University in the UK, Massey University in New Zealand, and Radboud University in the Netherlands, reviewed more than 20 studies that investigated the effect of various types of meditation.

The studies investigated the impact of techniques such as mindfulness and loving-kindness on pro-social feelings and behaviors.

Overall, analysis indicated that meditation did have an overall positive impact.

The researchers discovered meditation made people feel moderately more compassionate or empathic. This feeling occurred when the intervention was compared to the way they felt when they did not perform an emotionally-engaging activity.

However, further analysis revealed that it played no significant role in reducing aggression or prejudice or improving how socially-connected someone was.

The most unexpected result of this study, though, was that the more positive results found for compassion had important methodological flaws. That is, compassion levels in some studies only increased if the meditation teacher was also an author of the published report.

Overall, these results suggest that the moderate improvements reported by psychologists in previous studies may be the result of methodological weaknesses and biases, said the researchers.

The new research, published in Scientific Reports — only included randomized controlled studies, where meditators were compared to other individuals that did not meditate.

All these studies used secular meditation techniques derived from Buddhism, such as mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation, but not other related activities, like yoga or Tai-Chi.

Dr. Miguel Farias, from Coventry University’s Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science, said:

“The popularization of meditation techniques, like mindfulness, despite being taught without religious beliefs, still seem to offer the hope of a better self and a better world to many. We wanted to investigate how powerful these techniques were in affecting one’s feelings and behaviours towards others.

“Despite the high hopes of practitioners and past studies, our research found that methodological shortcomings greatly influenced the results we found. Most of the initial positive results disappeared when the meditation groups were compared to other groups that engaged in tasks unrelated to meditation.

We also found that the beneficial effect of meditation on compassion disappeared if the meditation teacher was an author in the studies. This reveals that the researchers might have unintentionally biased their results.

“None of this, of course, invalidates Buddhism or other religions’ claims about the moral value and eventually life changing potential of its beliefs and practices. But our research findings are a far cry from many popular claims made by meditators and some psychologists.

“To understand the true impact of meditation on people’s feelings and behavior further we first need to address the methodological weaknesses we uncovered — starting with the high expectations researchers might have about the power of meditation.”

Source: Coventry University/EurekAlert

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