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Sat, 27 Aug 2016
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Light Saber

Nourishing confidence: Five techniques to build lasting self-esteem

Everyone is in favor of high self-esteem — but cultivating it can be surprisingly tough. Psychologist Guy Winch explains why — and describes smart ways we can help build ourselves up.

Many of us recognize the value of improving our feelings of self-worth. When our self-esteem is higher, we not only feel better about ourselves, we are more resilient as well. Brain scan studies demonstrate that when our self-esteem is higher, we are likely to experience common emotional wounds such as rejection and failure as less painful, and bounce back from them more quickly. When our self-esteem is higher, we are also less vulnerable to anxiety; we release less cortisol into our bloodstream when under stress, and it is less likely to linger in our system.

But as wonderful as it is to have higher self-esteem, it turns out that improving it is no easy task. Despite the endless array of articles, programs and products promising to enhance our self-esteem, the reality is that many of them do not work and some are even likely to make us feel worse.

Part of the problem is that our self-esteem is rather unstable to begin with, as it can fluctuate daily, if not hourly. Further complicating matters, our self-esteem comprises both our global feelings about ourselves as well as how we feel about ourselves in the specific domains of our lives (e.g., as a father, a nurse, an athlete, etc.). The more meaningful a specific domain of self-esteem, the greater the impact it has on our global self-esteem. Having someone wince when they taste the not-so-delicious dinner you prepared will hurt a chef's self-esteem much more than someone for whom cooking is not a significant aspect of their identity.

Lastly, having high self-esteem is indeed a good thing, but only in moderation. Very high self-esteem — like that of narcissists — is often quite brittle. Such people might feel great about themselves much of the time but they also tend to be extremely vulnerable to criticism and negative feedback and respond to it in ways that stunts their psychological self-growth.

That said, it is certainly possible to improve our self-esteem if we go about it the right way. Here are five ways to nourish your self-esteem when it is low:

Comment: Further reading: 8 exercises for building the confidence to achieve your aims


Butterfly

Incorporating mindfulness into household chores can increase mental stimulation and decrease anxiety

© Shutterstock
When done properly, the chore decreased nervousness by 27% and increased mental inspiration by 25%.

Mindful dishwashing can decrease stress and calm the mind, a new study finds.

People in the study focused on the smell of the soap, the feel and shape of the dishes to help them enter a mindful state.

Doing the dishes in a mindful way also increased the pleasurable feeling of time slowing down, the researchers found.

Mr Adam Hanley, the study's first author, said:
"I've had an interest in mindfulness for many years, both as a contemplative practitioner and a researcher.

I was particularly interested in how the mundane activities in life could be used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increase overall sense of well-being."

Rainbow

Aging's silver lining: Research suggests people become happier and less stressed as they grow older


The older adults get, the better their mental health, new research shows.
Believe it or not, there are upsides to getting older.

Yes, your physical health is likely to decline as you age. And unfortunately, your cognitive abilities like learning new skills and remembering things is likely to suffer too.

But despite such downsides, research suggests that your overall mental health, including your mood, your sense of well-being and your ability to handle stress, just keeps improving right up until the very end of life.

Consider it something to look forward to.

In a recent survey of more than 1,500 San Diego residents aged 21 to 99, researchers report that people in their 20s were the most stressed out and depressed, while those in their 90s were the most content.

There were no dips in well-being in midlife, and no tapering off of well-being at the end of life.

Instead scientists found a clear, linear relationship between age and mental health: The older people were, the happier they felt.

"The consistency was really striking," said Dilip Jeste, director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging and senior author of the study. "People who were in older life were happier, more satisfied, less depressed, had less anxiety and less perceived stress than younger respondents."

Comment: Aging is a state of mind: Ways to defy the hands of time


Apple Red

Smarter parenting: Forego punishment in favor of reinforcing the behaviors you do want to see

Say you have a problem child. If it's a toddler, maybe he smacks his siblings. Or she refuses to put on her shoes as the clock ticks down to your morning meeting at work. If it's a teenager, maybe he peppers you with obscenities during your all-too-frequent arguments. The answer is to punish them, right?

Not so, says Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center. Punishment might make you feel better, but it won't change the kid's behavior. Instead, he advocates for a radical technique in which parents positively reinforce the behavior they do want to see until the negative behavior eventually goes away.

As I was reporting my recent series about child abuse, I came to realize that parents fall roughly into three categories. There's a small number who seem intuitively to do everything perfectly: Moms and dads with chore charts that actually work and snack-sized bags of organic baby carrots at the ready. There's an even smaller number who are horrifically abusive to their kids. But the biggest chunk by far are parents in the middle. They're far from abusive, but they aren't super-parents, either. They're busy and stressed, so they're too lenient one day and too harsh the next. They have outdated or no knowledge of child psychology, and they're scrambling to figure it all out.

Parents in this middle group might turn to Kazdin and his parenting interventions. I spoke with Kazdin about his unusual method. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Comment: Other studies concur that punishment is often counterproductive:


Music

Happy upbeat music has the power to make a workplace more cooperative and supportive

© Cornell University
Cornell University researchers found that music can have important effects on the cooperative spirits of those exposed to music.
From casual acoustic melodies at the coffee shop to throbbing electronic beats at teen clothing outlets, music is used to mold customer experience and behavior. But what impact does it have on employees?

Cornell University researchers explored this question in a pair of lab experiments and found that music can have important effects on the cooperative spirits of those exposed to music.

In the paper newly published by the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Cornell researchers Kevin Kniffin, Jubo Yan, Brian Wansink and William Schulze describe two studies they conducted to test the effect of different types of music on the cooperative behavior of individuals working as a team.

For each study, participants were grouped into teams of three. Each team member was given multiple opportunities to either contribute to the team's value using tokens or keep the tokens for personal use.

When happy, upbeat music was played - researchers chose the "Happy Days" theme song, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles and "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves - team members were more likely to contribute to the group's value. When music deemed unpleasant was played - in this case, heavy metal songs by less than well-known bands - participants were more likely to keep tokens for themselves. The researchers found contribution levels to the public good when happy, upbeat songs were played were approximately one-third higher compared to the less pleasant music.

Comment: Music has a powerful therapeutic effect on the body and mind. Not only can it increase our sense of community and promote social bonding, but can relieve stress and depression, ameliorate PTSD symptoms, boost brain development and even improve the quality of sleep.


Bulb

7 signs that you are probably smarter than average, no IQ test required

No IQ test required, here are some hints that your intelligence might be above average.

Other studies now suggest a link between intelligence and mental illness that may go back into our evolutionary past.

The increased intelligence of Homo sapiens was originally a result of gene mutations.

The cost of these gene mutations, however, may have been an increase in mental illness (Nithianantharajah et al., 2012).

Comment: Not included in this list is the benefits of cigarette smoking. See also: Secret health benefits of Nicotine


Family

'Gardening' children vs micromanaging them

Parents today have the highest conditioning of fear in the history of humankind. They are scared of everything and it reflects in their children. They jump at the opportunity to drug them, vaccinate them and intoxicate them with all types of pharmaceuticals for diseases they are told are a threat by scientific doctrines based on fear themselves. The loving care, informed by tradition and human experience, has now become a management plan in crises intervention. They fear for the child's friendships, socialization, education, opportunities, nutrition, health, treatment, but most of all their for their life. The life of the child must not follow any unknown path that the parent perceives as a threat. In short, we have a micromanaged a generation of robots whose fear programming then materializes in their reality.

Parents of young children are often overwhelmed by advice. The degree of generational differences in health, medicine, food, safety, and general well-being of children is colosssal today in comparison to just 40 years ago.

Comment: See also: Paradigm shift: The Difference between children who grew up in the 70's vs. today


Palette

The psychology of tattoo acquisition

Tara Day is a trauma therapist and has pursued a specific interest in tattoos within the context of her work.

She considers the perspective that tattoo acquisition can be adaptive behaviour or a process addiction and considers what conclusions can be arrived at by studying it in detail

'Our wounds serve to remind us where we have been they need not dictate where we are going" (Davis & Dunkle, 2009).

For centuries, sub-cultures ranging from ancient warriors to those on the fringes of society have organised themselves around symbols etched into their skin. Tattoos are ritualistic, permanent and defining. They are seen as an unspoken symbolic language that are said to echo the experiences of the individual by way of coded messages hidden within layers of imagery.

Comment: A theory for tattoos


Butterfly

Seeking physical and emotional healing? Try a sweat lodge

It's pitch black and sweltering. What do you do? Breathe.

People have compared sweat lodges to saunas but they are much more healing and spiritually beneficial than just stepping into a sauna for 20 minutes. In Ecuador, I recently sat and sweated through my third ceremony, here called a Temazcal, and it was amazing. Let me tell you why.

Every culture and tradition has their own version of a Temazcal but they all have the basic premise: emotional healing and health through song and prayer. Last month I sat in one that was led by a man ordained by the Lakota tradition. This time it was led by Alejandro Beltran, an Ecuadorian Shaman in the beautiful Yunguilla Valley.

Life Preserver

8 exercises for building the confidence to achieve your aims

When it comes to going Primal, there's lots to enjoy. But on the way to success, it's inevitable we'll hit some dips in the road. Life intervenes, challenging our newly minted Primal routines. At some point or another, we're bound to reach a confounding impasse and lose our mojo. When it happens, we're presented with two choices: take it as an intractable character flaw (not recommended) or take it in stride, recognizing the inherent need for a reboot. Many readers write in for a pick-me-up, a pat on the back and some reassuring words of support to keep them going (keep those coming, since I learn from every person's experience). So how can we find a confidence foothold to keep climbing on these days? Or, to put it a different way, how can we mentally fortify ourselves when we're feeling our weakest?

First off, I don't want to trivialize confidence or treat it like some kind of emotional accessory. Confidence, as most of us understand it, is more of a complex psychological experience than a one-dimensional feeling. It's not something you either have or don't, and the nature of it can vary for different people. Some people (for a host of reasons) might have an easier time feeling it than others. Yet it matters for all of us. True confidence is more substantive than bravado. It can be a centered comfort with oneself, a relative perception of self-efficacy, a grounded sense of self-reference, or all of the above.

Suffice it to say though, a lack of confidence can naturally present a big obstacle when you're trying to overhaul your diet and lifestyle or take up new fitness challenges. No matter what your specific goal, a healthy dose of self-confidence is pretty key to getting the job done. For the days when it feels like the motivational well is dry, let's look at some ways we can shore up our store of confidence.