A great a article by Travis Bradberry via Forbes. A study at UCLA discovered being likable is mostly influenced by controllable aspects such as sincerity, transparency, and capability of understanding other people. The top-rated descriptors had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive (innate characteristics). Please read on by clicking the link.
A great article on mindtools.com about how to be assertive.
Interesting article by Lisa Firestone, PhD.
4 important things to be mindful of in your relationship - taken from renowned couples therapist John Gottman.
Many approaches to therapy have been developed in the decades since Freud first began his experimentation with the talking cure. Psychotherapy today comes in many varieties: The psychoanalyst will probe your unconscious; the behaviorist will rearrange your reinforcement contingencies; the cognitive therapist will challenge your irrational thoughts; the humanist will provide a safe space within which you may activate your self actualization tendency; the existentialist will encourage your find meaning in the desert of existence; the reality therapist will guide you toward choosing behaviors that facilitate your connection to others; the feminist therapist may show you how your personal problems are manifestations of political patriarchal oppression, and so forth, on and on.
In this rich ecology, no single therapy theory or technique holds a monopoly on healing. Depending on the particular context—when, where, how, and with whom they are used—multiple approaches, explanations, and interventions may prove effective and helpful, or, alternately, ineffective and harmful. Given this, and the endless array of choices, how can potential clients tell good therapy from bad?
Well, just as all wines—despite their great diversity in taste, price, and presentation—share the same active ingredient (grapes), so it is with therapy: Underneath the surface diversity all good therapies share severalunderlying principles. These are in fact responsible for most of the healing that takes place in therapy.
Here’s a list (based on my own reading of the research, and my clinical experience) of 10 basic, common ingredients of good therapy:
1. Good therapy is not friendship.
There are several differences between friendship and therapy. First, you may have multiple relationships with your friends. You can go into business with them, borrow money from them, have sex with them. With your therapist, you can only do therapy. Your therapist may be friendly, but she is not your friend. If your therapist is your friend then she is not your therapist.
Second, friendship doesn’t need to have a plan, goal, or purpose beyond its own existence. You can hang with your friends for no good reason other than that you enjoy it, are used to it, or have nothing better to do. You don’t hang with your therapist. Therapy is purposeful and pragmatic, moving deliberately toward one or more mutually negotiated goals. Therapy is not an end in itself.
Third, you and your friends have a mutual, equal claim on your encounter. Your interests, needs, and concerns are as important as your friends’ concerns and issues. Therapy is not like that. By design it is one sided. It is about the client. Every action of the therapist can legitimately be directed only toward one goal—helping the client. The therapist cannot use therapy time, or the therapeutic relations, to take care of their own needs. If your therapist uses therapy time for any purpose other than to help you, then what they’re doing is not good therapy.
2. Good therapy is evidence-based.
Good therapy involves keeping good records, connecting anecdotes into patterns, generating hypotheses and testing them. Good therapy is responsive to new knowledge. It admits and corrects its mistakes. While good therapy seeks to foster hope and nourish the expectation of change, its promises are tethered to facts. If your therapist guarantees success or promises to change your personality, walk away.
There is art to good therapy, since it is an intentional human encounter, and as such is inherently dynamic, creative, and unique. But the art of good therapy must align with science in the way that the art of architectural design must align with the principles of sound engineering. What the therapist suggests to the client—the course of action, the explanations and interventions—should be based on scientific research, to the extent that such research exists. Good therapy does not contradict or ignore sound scientific data, knowledge, or evidence. Good therapy recognizes the simple truth—simple yet not easy (it took the Catholic church 300 years too long to figure it out regarding Galileo)—that the evidence wins out in the end.
3. Good therapy affirms the client’s basic human dignity and worth.
Good therapy looks to facilitate sound mental health. Mental health, however, is not a destination, not an end in itself, not a place you arrive at, pearly-gates style, to be ushered into bliss. Rather, mental health is a process you adopt and use in the pursuit of your chosen goals. In other words, mental health is your driving skill, not the destination of your trip. The therapist, therefore, is not a chauffeur but a driving instructor.
Good therapy concerns itself with judgments, but it is not about judging people, in the same way that a church must concern itself with finances, but should not be about money. Most people who come to therapy have been judged harshly enough for their troubles—by themselves, their peers, spouses, employers, neighbors, and, often, society at large. They have also been given plenty of advice. Therefore, unlike media therapists, good therapists go light on both judgment and advice. And by and large, that’s not what people come to therapy to find. They come for an experience—a healing, corrective experience. What they require is understanding, empathy, attention, acceptance, and encouragement.
Just as a surgeon has a duty to operate regardless of the patient’s ideology, moralcharacter, wealth, or ethnicity, so must a therapist accept, listen, and seek to understand, respond appropriately to, and honor the humanity of every client, regardless of how much the therapist "likes" or approves of the individual. And needless to say, good therapy does not condescend, patronize, abuse, abandon, manipulate, lie, or cheat.
4. Good therapy encourages and models accurate, honest, and timely feedback and communication.
Video games are hugely popular. One reason is because people who play a lot can improve a lot. They improve because the video game environment provides timely, consistent, unflinching, and accurate feedback: You kill the bad guy, you move to level 2; the bad guy kills you, you repeat level 1. Likewise, clients improve when they receive timely, accurate feedback in therapy.
Many of our encounters with people outside the therapy room are mannered, circumspect, or shallow. Many are touched by deceit, or plagued by inattention. Our communications in the world often seek to obscure rather than reveal our true intents, to avoid the truth rather than confront it. We are often afraid to say what we truly feel and think; afraid to hurt and be hurt; afraid that our secrets will leak out and be used against us. Truth may set us free. But more than we want to be free, we want to belong and get along, because that’s how we survive and keep safe. What is the right to privacy, if not the right to withhold truth, to maintain a distance between how we present ourselves and who we are, to keep our truths to ourselves? Out there in the social world, truth is dangerous.
Truth is safe in good therapy. Therapy creates a space that invites, expects, and is quite purposely designed for frank, probing, and revealing dialogue. It’s a safe space for clients to express themselves honestly, get to understand their true feelings, and work with the therapist to figure out how to use that information in their journey toward healing.
5. Good therapy = a good therapeutic alliance.
Generally, the best predictor of success in therapy is rapport—feelings of trust and respect between the participants; a therapeutic alliance. When there’s no rapport, there’s no therapy. Thus, while a therapist may look good on paper—experienced, well trained, etc.—if upon meeting them (within the first few sessions) you feel no chemistry, no trust, no warmth, then it’s probably best (for both of you) if you move on.
6. Good therapy encourages the client’s independence and competence.
If the therapy process is not moving in the direction of improving client resilience, independence, decision-making, and life competence, then therapy is not taking place. If your admiration for the therapist rises in tandem with your self-doubt, then you’re probably not in good therapy. A good sign of therapy at the brink of failure, or of therapy that’s not legitimate, is when your dependence on the therapist increases over time. Therapy is not about handing out solutions to problems; it’s about teaching the client to problem solve.
7. Good therapy considers the client’s history and biography.
Some therapy approaches focus mostly on the here and now, or on the future, while others focus mainly on re-envisioning past experiences. Either way, good therapy makes room for biography. The past is not the only key, but is often one key to the present. We may not focus on it, but acknowledge it we must. We all come from somewhere. And where we come from has implications for where we are and who we are. A person’s biography provides a map of their experiential field; it’s a context within which their behavior can be usefully understood. The past may not determine the present, but it certainly informs it. And it informs good therapy.
8. Good therapy takes into account the client’s subjective experience and inner world.
People experience life through their senses. Our individual sensory experiences—while rooted in the common soil of our evolutionary heritage—are shaped by our genetic makeup and life experiences, both of which are unique. Thus, while on some level we are all in this together, on another, to paraphrase Lilly Tomlin, we are all in this alone. Which is to say, how you represent and process the phenomena of the world may be quite different from how I do so. Good therapists know that to understand the client, they must understand her subjective experience. Not just her circumstances, but what the circumstances mean to her. Good therapy is curious about the client’s inner grammar. Good therapy honors, maps, and works within the client’s subjective experience. In other words, good therapy accepts that while, for example, your mother is in all likelihood an average person by objective measurements, she is special to you, because of how she is represented in your subjective world.
9. Good therapy happens when the client does the work.
Like parents do with their children, therapists tend to take too much credit for their clients’ success (and too much blame for failure). In fact, both parents and therapists are less powerful than they (and the world) believe they are. Client factors such as hope,motivation, resources, social support, and grit account for far more than the therapist’s ability and characteristics in determining the therapy’s outcome. The client’s experience of the therapy also matters more than the objective measurement of therapy ingredients. All therapy, in a fundamental sense, is self-therapy. If therapy is to work for the client, the client has to work for the therapy. As the old joke goes: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Two or three, but the light bulb has to want to change. (And yes, humor belongs in good therapy).
10. Good therapy offers support, requires learning, and facilitates action.
Good therapy engages clients on multiple levels. It involves clients’ emotions, cognition, and behavior. Often, the effort in therapy will focus first on emphatic understanding of the client, establishing alliance and becoming aware of the client’s inner architecture, life circumstances, and personal narrative. Then, good therapy will also facilitate learning—new insights, new ways of thinking, of communicating with others, and managing emotion. Finally, good therapy includes a focus on the clients’ action in the world—practicing new skills, adopting new habits, and new ways of moving in the world.
If you are in therapy feeling alone and unsupported, if you haven’t learned anything new, and if your behavior has not changed at all, then you’re not in therapy, at least not in therapy that’s any good.
The Most Surprising Regret Of The Very Old -- And How You Can Avoid It
Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D.Professor of Human Development, Cornell University; Author, "30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage"
What do older people regret when they look back over their lives? I asked hundreds of the oldest Americans that question. I had expected big-ticket items: an affair, a shady business deal, addictions -- that kind of thing. I was therefore unprepared for the answer they often gave:
I wish I hadn't spent so much of my life worrying.
Over and over, as the 1,200 elders in our Legacy Project reflected on their lives, I heard versions of "I would have spent less time worrying" and "I regret that I worried so much about everything." Indeed, from the vantage point of late life, many people felt that if given a single "do-over" in life, they would like to have all the time back they spent fretting anxiously about the future.
Their advice on this issue is devastatingly simple and direct: Worry is an enormous waste of your precious and limited lifetime. They suggested training yourself to reduce or eliminate worrying as the single most positive step you can make toward greater happiness. The elders conveyed, in urgent terms, that worry is an unnecessary barrier to joy and contentment. And it's not just what they said -- it's how they said it.
John Alonzo, 83, is a man of few words, but I quickly learned that what he had to say went straight to the point. A construction worker, he had battled a lifetime of financial insecurity. But he didn't think twice in giving this advice:
Don't believe that worrying will solve or help anything. It won't. So stop it.
That was it. His one life lesson was simply to stop worrying.
James Huang, 87, put it this way:
Why? I ask myself. What possible difference did it make that I kept my mind on every little thing that might go wrong? When I realized that it made no difference at all, I experienced a freedom that's hard to describe. My life lesson is this: Turn yourself from frittering away the day worrying about what comes next and let everything else that you love and enjoy move in.
This surprised me. Indeed, I thought that older people would endorse a certain level of worry. It seemed reasonable that people who had experienced the Great Depression would want to encourage financial worries; who fought or lost relatives in World War II would suggest we worry about international issues; and who currently deal with increasing health problems would want us to worry about our health.
The reverse is the case, however. The elders see worry as a crippling feature of our daily existence and suggest that we do everything in our power to change it. Why is excessive worry such a big regret? Because, according to the elders, worry wastes your very limited and precious lifetime. By poisoning the present moment, they told me, you lose days, months, or years that you can never recover.
Betty, 76, expressed this point with a succinct example:
I was working, and we learned that there were going to be layoffs in my company in three months. I did nothing with that time besides worry. I poisoned my life by worrying obsessively, even though I had no control over what would happen. Well -- I wish I had those three months back.
Life is simply too short, the oldest Americans tell us, to spend it torturing yourself over outcomes that may never come to pass.
How should we use this lesson, so that we don't wind up at the end of our lives longing to get back the time we wasted worrying? The elders fortunately provide us with some concrete ways of thinking differently about worry and moving beyond it as we go through our daily lives.
Tip 1: Focus on the short term rather than the long term.
Eleanor is a delightful, positive 102-year-old who has had much to worry about in her long life. Her advice is to avoid the long view when you are consumed with worry and to focus instead on the day at hand. She told me:
Well, I think that if you worry, and you worry a lot, you have to stop and think to yourself, "This too will pass." You just can't go on worrying all the time because it destroys you and life, really. But there's all the times when you think of worrying and you can't help it -- then just make yourself stop and think: it doesn't do you any good. You have to put it out of your mind as much as you can at the time. You just have to take one day at a time. It's a good idea to plan ahead if possible, but you can't always do that because things don't always happen the way you were hoping they would happen. So the most important thing is one day at a time.
Tip 2: Instead of worrying, prepare.
The elders see a distinct difference between worry and conscious, rational planning, which greatly reduces worry. It's the free-floating worry, after one has done everything one can about a problem, which seems so wasteful to them.
Joshua Bateman, 74, summed up the consensus view:
If you're going to be afraid of something, you really ought to know what it is. At least understand why. Identify it. 'I'm afraid of X.' And sometimes you might have good reason. That's a legitimate concern. And you can plan for it instead of worrying about it.
Tip 3: Acceptance is an antidote to worry.
The elders have been through the entire process many times: worrying about an event, having the event occur and experiencing the aftermath. Based on this experience, they recommend an attitude of acceptance as a solution to the problem of worry. However, we tend to see acceptance as purely passive, not something we can actively foster. In addition to focusing on the day at hand and being prepared as cures for worry, many of the elders also recommend actively working toward acceptance. Indeed this was most often the message of the oldest experts.
Sister Clare, a 99-year-old nun, shared a technique for reducing worry through pursuing acceptance:
There was a priest that said mass for us, and at a certain time of his life, something happened, and it broke his heart. And he was very angry -- he just couldn't be resigned, he couldn't get his mind off it. Just couldn't see why it had happened.
So he went to an elderly priest and said, "What shall I do? I can't get rid of it." And the priest said, "Every time it comes to your mind, say this." And the priest said very slowly, "Just let it be, let it be." And this priest told us, "I tried that and at first it didn't make any difference, but I kept on. After a while, when I pushed it aside, let it be, it went away. Maybe not entirely, but it was the answer."
Sister Clare, one of the most serene people I have ever met, has used this technique for well over three-quarters of a century.
So many things come to your mind. Now, for instance, somebody might hurt your feelings. You're going to get back at him or her -- well, just let it be. Push it away. So I started doing that. I found it the most wonderful thing because everybody has uncharitable thoughts, you can't help it. Some people get on your nerves and that will be there until you die. But when they start and I find myself thinking, "Well, now, she shouldn't do that. I should tell her that . . ." Let it be. Often, before I say anything, I think, "If I did that, then what?" And let it be. Oh, so many times I felt grateful that I did nothing. That lesson has helped me an awful lot.
Worry is endemic to the experience of most modern-day human beings, so much so that following this piece of elder wisdom may seem impossible to some of you. But what the elders tell us is consistent with research findings. The key characteristic of worry, according to scientists who study it, is that it takes place in the absence of actual stressors; that is, we worry when there is actually nothing concrete to worry about. This kind of worry -- ruminating about possible bad things that may happen to us or our loved ones -- is entirely different from concrete problem solving. When we worry, we are dwelling on possible threats to ourselves rather than simply using our cognitive resources to figure a way out of a difficult situation.
A critically important strategy for regret reduction, according to our elders, is increasing the time spent on concrete problem solving and drastically eliminating time spent worrying. One activity enhances life, whereas down the road the other is deeply regretted as a waste of our all-too-short time on Earth.
Follow Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/karlpillemer
6 ways to reduce holiday stress
The holiday season is supposed to be “The most wonderful time of the year.” But for some, it’s quite the opposite and the holidays can actually be more like the most miserable time of the year.
Steve Siebold, a psychological performance and mental toughness coach who is author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class, says, “The change from everyday routines, the large gatherings, the decorating, shopping and more can make many people feel overwhelmed and stressed this time of year.”
Here are some tips to reduce the stress of the holidays and make it more enjoyable:
Life is challenging enough as it is, and with all the extra commitments and things that have to get done this time of year, it can cause panic and chaos for even the most mentally tough people. When you find yourself moving a million miles an hour, take a step back and slow down. Instead of getting overwhelmed in everything you have to do, focus on one task at a time. Looking at one thing in front of you compared to the big picture makes it much more manageable.
Ask for help
There’s no reason you have to do everything by yourself during the holiday season. Ask for help. If you’re hosting Christmas dinner, for example, ask your spouse or children to help with the shopping, coking, decorating, setting up the guest bedroom, taking out the trash, walking the dog, etc.
Don’t feel bad about saying ‘No’
There’s only so much time in a day, and with all the extra commitments at the holidays, don’t feel guilty about telling people ‘no.’ A very simple response to soften it is, “I would normally love to help; however, I already have so much on my plate right now. I’ll have to pass on the offer. I would love to help another time.”
Take a break
If the holiday season gets to be too much, take a break. Put everything down for a day and go do something you really enjoy. If you feel a day is too long, take 30 minutes to an hour and go for a walk, spend time doing something fun with a friend, take your kids to the park, read a new book, work on your business plan for the New Year, watch TV or whatever it is that will take your mind off of the holidays.
Talk it out
It’s never a good idea to keep your feelings bottled up inside. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, talk to a close friend you can confide in, a therapist or try journaling. In fact, become your own best means of support and talk to yourself. Put things in perspective and tell yourself the craziness of the holiday season will only last for a few weeks and then life goes back to normal. Tell yourself it’s only temporary and that you can hang tough a little longer.
Lower your expectations
Many people have ridiculously high expectations of what the holidays are supposed to be like. Stop paying attention to what you see on TV. Stop being influenced by those holiday catalogs. Take the pressure off and just let the holidays play out naturally.
Focus on being rather than doing
One of the best ways to find happiness this time of year is to focus on being rather than doing. Make a list of the 10 things you are most grateful for in your life, and review them every morning for the month of December. Monitor how this simple activity impacts your emotions.
Courtesy of the Mayo Clinic..
Courtesy of Melanie Greenberg, PhD.
"Long gone are the days when mental health was a taboo subject in major league locker rooms, and the days of a lone sports psychologist even appear to be waning. At least three teams - the Cubs, Red Sox and Nationals - announced major changes this year to their approach with mental health and skills."Read More
Some different perspectives on working with thoughts and how they effect us.
Some nice tips courtesy of Michelle Bender at Yahoo.
Working with clients on alleviating workplace stress led me to these simple but effective ways to contribute to a successful 2015:
1) Take a small break every few hours. Taking a break means going for a walk around the block, taking a walk around the office, closing your office door, etc. Just 15-minutes away from the workplace (physically and especially mentally) can vastly improve focus and concentration. Incorporating mindfulness is especially beneficial (next bullet point).
2) Incorporating mindfulness into your day. Mindfulness simply means being present and not letting your thoughts drift to the future or past. For example, sitting in your office chair and simply noticing your breathing and any physical sensations (i.e. the weight of your spine against the back of your chair). If your mind wanders to a conversation you had earlier in the day or to a meeting you have later, notice that thought, let it go, and focus your attention back to your breathing.
3) Spend your mental energy on things you can control. Many of us waste precious time and energy ruminating about things that are out of our control. Divide thoughts related to work into two categories: things you can control and things you cannot control. Then make action plans for the things that are in your control. You will feel a sense of relief and accomplishment when you begin to execute. Note: Making lists is a good way to organize tasks that are in your control.
4) Spend time around upbeat coworkers. Spending time with negative coworkers can make work more difficult to bear. There are times when we are forced to work with those who are typically negative or love to gossip. This may be something that’s out of your control. However, if you do have time for water cooler talk, try to spend more time with those who are positive and have a realistic outlook on things.
5) Be assertive without being aggressive. Many of us feel pressure to say “yes” to everything, even if it’s unreasonable. This can add unwanted and unnecessary stress and anxiety. Establish realistic boundaries and don’t be afraid to push back when appropriate. Remember, how we say things can be much more impactful than what we say. Make sure you are aware of your tone and body language.
A nice article by Amy Joyce courtesy of the Washington Post.Read More
A nice article that outlines how to observe negative thoughts and reframe them.
Doctors may soon use a blood test to diagnose depression.