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Sun, 22 Jan 2017
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Face everything technique: How not to be an avoidance machine

We are, all of us, amazing at avoiding things.

Our minds are less "thinking machines" than they are "avoiding machines." And the incredible thing is that we aren't even usually aware that we're avoiding thinking about something.

I'll give you a few examples:
  • Right now you're reading this article but probably avoiding the difficult thing you don't want to think about.
  • We are constantly checking messages, news, feeds, notifications ... to avoid doing something we don't want to face.
  • When we're facing difficulties in life, we try to tell ourselves that's it's OK because (fill in the blank), or get busy with some activity or numbing agent (like alcohol) so we don't have to face the difficulties.
  • When a problem comes up, our reaction is to want to go do something else, put it off.
  • We put off paying bills, doing taxes, dealing with long emails, dealing with clutter, because we don't want to face these difficulties.
  • We put off exercise because it's uncomfortable.
In fact, there are thousands more examples, every day, that come up and that we don't even notice, because our minds switch to thinking about something else.

Try this right now: pause for a minute and think about what difficulty you're avoiding thinking about right now.

Comment: Further reading:


The key to emotional control: Flexibility in situations you cannot control

The key to healthy emotional control is to be flexible, new research finds.

People with lower levels of depression and anxiety tend to vary their emotional control strategy successfully depending on whether the situation can be explained.

Dr Peter Koval, one of the study's authors, said:
"Our results caution against a 'one strategy fits all' approach, which may be tempting to recommend based on many previous findings regarding reappraisal as a strategy for regulating emotion.

Simply using any given emotion regulation strategy more (or less) in all situations may not lead to the best outcomes — instead, contextually-appropriate emotion regulation may be healthier."
For the research, people were tracked over a week.

Comment: Good advice for all the precious snowflakes angsting over the recent election!


Americans take note: Your post-election 'breakup' trauma is affecting your children

Dear America,

I wanted to send this letter home because I am concerned about your kids. I know you are currently going through a breakup. It sounds like a particularly nasty split. You guys have been talking really poorly about each other. Spewing words of hate and oozing it onto your kids.

I know breakups are hard and you are having some pretty intense emotions right now, but I thought I would let you know that your kids are being affected.

As a child therapist, my week is normally spent helping kids navigate through their social life, their emotions and their kid worries. This week I had to spend too much time talking about you. I thought I should let you know that your breakup is destroying the kids.

I am hearing stories of hate. Your hate. Kids who were pure love until you filled them to the brim with your anger - your fears. I know this is a rough time for you. I get it. But your kids are suffering.

This week I listened as your kids told me their stories of woe. Woes you created as you spewed out hate over the dinner table.

Kids who were once best friends, no longer talking because they are taking sides - your sides. Kids being taunted on the playground because their beliefs are no longer respected. All sides are guilty. All beliefs are being attacked.


Breathing: The most powerful exercise to rejuvenate mind and body

The way you breathe is the way you live. Breathing is absolutely essential to life, but it's often overlooked as a necessity for good health. Full, free breathing is one of the most powerful keys to enhancing physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

Breathing fully and freely is our birthright. If you watch a baby breathe, you will see the beauty and simplicity of flow in the body. With each inhale, the baby's belly fills with air like a balloon, the pelvis rocks, the legs open, the chest rises and then falls, like swells across the ocean. This is natural, oceanic full-body breathing. It is the way we were meant to breathe.

Breathing effortlessly, a baby lives fully and freely in the now, in the expansiveness of the moment. There is no past to remember, no future to plan for or worry about. Each breath is a process of receiving from the universe and giving back to it. With each inhale, she receives and takes life in. With each exhale, she lets go and gives back. She is in touch with and part of the essential rhythm of life.

"Full, free breathing is one of the most powerful keys to enhancing physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing."

The baby doesn't know or do this consciously, but simply experiences an inherent peace, joy, and connectedness with all things. Of course, a baby will also experience needs and be heavily influenced by the environment that she is in. She will have emotional outbursts or cries for attention, but what is important to notice is how easily a baby will settle back into a relaxed state of calm and peace. Much like animals, children have a great capacity for resilience. In one moment they may be screaming and then after a brief reassuring glance or embrace, settle back into a deep peace and calm.

Comment: For more on a breath-focused, stress-relieving meditation technique try Éiriú Eolas for free.


The cognitive dissonance cluster bomb

Earlier this week CNN.com listed 24 different theories that pundits have provided for why Trump won. And the list isn't even complete. I've heard other explanations as well. What does it tell you when there are 24 different explanations for a thing?

It tells you that someone just dropped a cognitive dissonance cluster bomb on the public. Heads exploded. Cognitive dissonance set in. Weird theories came out. This is the cleanest and clearest example of cognitive dissonance you will ever see. Remember it.



Dwelling on the past instead of learning from it can ruin your health

Constantly dwelling on the past can negatively effect your health
Dwelling on the past may not only stop you from enjoying each day to the full - it could also be bad for your health.

Research suggests that people who look back at their past experiences full of regrets about missed opportunities or with bitterness about how they have been treated are more likely to fall ill and generally have a poorer quality of life.

Those who look back in anger are also more sensitive to pain, it found.

It also suggested that focusing too much on the future does not harm health - but can stop people enjoying what they have.

Comment: More on how dwelling on the past, which is an inability or unwillingness to live in the present, affects you:


The science of why we fall for scams

© Getty Images
Yes, smart people get scammed. Lots of them.

Peter, a retired lawyer, still can't believe he was scammed out of $2,000, under the premise of keeping his step-grandson out of jail. "I'm much too smart for that sort of thing," he said.

Except that, obviously, he wasn't.

Intelligence alone isn't sufficient protection from a scam. Anyone with a heart, with a family, or with common desires or insecurities can be victimized by the sophisticated mind games used by today's fraudsters.

Americans were scammed out of $1.7 billion in 2014 according to the FTC. Last year the FTC received more than 3 million fraud complaints, and it's been estimated that there were a least another 3 million victims who didn't report their losses.

Peter, one of the many people I interview for my research as a consumer psychologist, spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he was conned. "In retrospect I can see that I just kept filling in blanks and making assumptions instead of challenging what I was hearing," he told me. That's something we all do—especially in stressful situations.

We pay attention to information that supports our beliefs and ignore what doesn't. Peter's scammers had a good idea that he would make these kinds of cognitive errors. Their expertise in amateur psychology is the foundation of their success in ripping people off.

In order to protect yourself, it's wise to understand exactly how people get played. Here are some common scenarios that leave consumers especially vulnerable to scams:


Turns out, faking a smile might not make you happier after all

© Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock.com
Perhaps you've heard that you can brighten your mood just by faking a smile. But that idea, which came out of a psychological experiment from the 1980s, may not be true after all, as scientists were not able to repeat the results in a lab setting in a large, rigorous new study.

The hypothesis, called the facial-feedback hypothesis, dates back to a 1988 study in which participants rated the humor of cartoons while inadvertently mimicking either a smile or a pout. The participants were simply asked to hold a pen in their mouths, either with their lips (which pushes the face into a frown-like expression) or their teeth (which mimics a smile). The participants who used the pen to mimic a smile rated the cartoons as funnier.

Now, a 17-lab effort with 1,894 participants finds no evidence that such an effect exists. It's the latest in a string of failed replications in psychology, including the recent finding that willpower may not be a limited resource, as many psychologists had believed.

Comment: See also:


Well-being linked with when, how people manage emotions

© Cyber School Group
Reframing how we think about a situation is a common strategy for managing our emotions, but a new study suggests that using this reappraisal strategy in situations we actually have control over may be associated with lower well-being. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Our results caution against a 'one strategy fits all' approach, which may be tempting to recommend based on many previous findings regarding reappraisal as a strategy for regulating emotion," says psychological scientist Peter Koval of Australian Catholic University. "Simply using any given emotion regulation strategy more (or less) in all situations may not lead to the best outcomes -- instead, contextually-appropriate emotion regulation may be healthier."

Recent work on emotion regulation has highlighted the fact that flexibility in using emotion regulation strategies is key to healthy functioning. Koval and his research team decided to investigate how situational context might play a role in the relationship between emotion regulation and well-being in people's everyday lives.

Comment: See also:


Does your mind jump around, stay on task or get stuck?

© unknown
During downtime, some of us daydream while others might focus on a to-do list, or get stuck in a negative loop. Psychology has traditionally defined all these thought patterns as variations of "mind-wandering."

But a review of brain imaging studies led by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of British Columbia offers a new way of looking at spontaneous versus controlled thinking, challenging the adage that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

It suggests that increased awareness of how our thoughts move when our brains are at rest could lead to better diagnoses and targeted treatments for such mental illnesses as depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"It's important to know not only the difference between free-ranging mind-wandering and sticky, obsessive thoughts, but also to understand, within this framework, how these types of thinking work together," said review co-author Zachary Irving, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley.

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