Maryann's Picks

Maryann's Picks

 
 

INNER BULLIES: SIMMER DOWN, GUILT FAIRY

Hurrah For Gin's Katie Kirby gives us an irreverent take on our own internal bully. Her foul-mouthed cartoon “Guilt Fairy” is the self-critical voice personified. Kirby focuses on her experience as a mom, but similar internal criticisms could be applied to anything. If you've ever beaten yourself up, you might find this post validating, normalizing, and even a little cathartic. Kirby's sketches are a great reminder to stand up for ourselves with humour and logic (talk back, fight back!). I can also spot several aspects of self-compassion woven in there (see the Fairy as a shared human experience; give yourself a break sometimes; stay mindful of your thoughts and feelings). Practicing self-compassion is a great way to soothe harsh self-criticism, build confidence, create meaningful relationships, and promote physical and mental health (Gilbert, 2010).


BULLIES ON THE WORLD STAGE: SELF-CARE FOR RESISTANCE

Seeing a bully take control of a high-ranking public position can feel intensely threatening, discouraging, and disempowering. Mirah Curzer's timely post “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind” offers up some practical self-care lessons for a time of widespread socio-political resistance. I view self-care during difficult times as a radical act of applied self-compassion: “a kind, connected and clear-sighted way of relating to ourselves even in instances of failure, perceived inadequacy, and imperfection” (Neff, 2011, p. 1). Neff's research indicates that self-compassion promotes emotional resilience and stability. It's something within you that you can choose to practice. Empowering thoughts for a destabilizing time.

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Maeve's Picks

Maeve's Picks

 
 

“ACT IN CONTEXT” PODCAST

Many of us at Connecte are big fans of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or “ACT” (for more information on ACT, see Brent’s blog post, as well as a TED talk by the founder of ACT, Steven Hayes, previously posted by Lisa).

One of the most interesting and useful podcasts that I listened to this year was “ACT in Context”, which brings you through the main components of ACT in an informal and user-friendly approach. The podcast is appropriate both for professionals using ACT and individuals interested in ACT for their own personal purposes (I used it for both!). The hosts are clinical psychology PhD students, and they invite in different ACT specialists for each episode to present a different facet of the ACT approach.

Access the podcast through the iTunes store, or by streaming it from the Contextual Psychology website, where many ACT resources can be found. 


Reshma Saujani’s wonderful TED talk explores the societal pressures that can be endured by girls to perform well, and argues instead that we should teach girls to be brave. She argues that being afraid to take risks or to fail inhibits girls’ willingness to learn or to seek opportunities, be they social (e.g., asking someone out on a date) or professional (e.g., asking a question when they don’t understand, applying for a job even though they might not have all the qualifications listed). Although this TED talk focuses on young women, I feel that the issue of being insecure about one’s own abilities or worth, and being afraid to take risks (that may ultimately lead to opportunities!) is relevant to a much wider audience. 

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Danit's Picks

Danit's Picks

 
 

ON FEAR

In this stop-motion animation, Karen Chan highlights the way our fear can limit the way we engage with our lives. Although anxiety and avoidance have been researched and written about extensively (see Machell et al., 2014, or Dymond, 2009), Chan simplifies the complexity of ‘fear conditioning’—the (very adaptive) way we teach ourselves to keep safe by avoiding danger. However, beyond that, she brings to light the tendency to hang on to fearing old fears, even when they no longer present a threat. The questions at the end of the video prime us to take a deeper look at the terror we create with our thoughts and with our actions, as we continue to avoid what may no longer be dangerous to us. There is evidence that by doing this, we condition ourselves to keep living in fear even when there is no danger. In doing so, we may be missing out on important and enriching life experiences!


YOUR PERSONALIZED DRINKING PROFILE

Roughly 80% of Canadians report drinking alcohol (Taylor, 2016). For many, alcohol consumption is a source of pleasure—enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, a beer with friends, a cocktail on a terrace. However, many Canadians drink in a way that puts them at risk for harm (physical or other), sometimes without even realizing that their drinking is risky! If you are curious about where your drinking stands, there is a tool to help you learn more about your drinking patterns. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) makes this brief survey available to all, and includes personalized feedback about your drinking. You can learn about how your drinking compares to others’, how much it costs you (not just financially!), and how quickly you metabolize the alcohol such that it is no longer in your system after you’ve had a drink. Check it out here.


CREATING YOUR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE WITH AN EASY APP

Practicing Mindfulness is the art of bringing one’s attention to the present moment with purpose and compassion. Mindfulness has been linked to improved physical health and psychological well-being (Brown et al., 2007), and is often a first step in the journey of self-exploration and wellness.

You can practice mindfulness throughout your day-to-day activities, or, you can set aside time dedicated to mindful meditation. If you are looking to explore your own mindfulness and meditation preferences, there is a (free) app to guide you.

The Insight Timer app is a great tool for beginners and more experienced meditators alike.  You can browse through guided meditations or simply set a timer for your meditation and proceed without instruction. You can choose from a range of meditations, some lasting a single minute, to others lasting upwards of an hour!


MINDFULNESS AND CREATIVITY IN THE WORKPLACE

All the wonderful benefits of practicing mindfulness also extend to the workplace. In this context, mindfulness has been linked to enhanced performance, smoother interpersonal interactions and improved relationships with clients (Good et al., 2016). Taking a moment to slow down is essential in the world of multitasking and information overload. In fact, just a few mindful moments a day can stimulate creativity and insight in the workplace. 

Check out this article to learn more about mindfulness as a way to jumpstart creativity at work.

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Miriam's Picks

Miriam's Picks

 
 

In this TED Talk, Kang Lee, a researcher from the University of Toronto demystifies children’s lie-telling behaviour. Dr. Lee argues that lie-telling is not only normal, it is actually something to celebrate (to a point!), given that it signifies the appropriate development of self-control and theory of mind (our ability to perspective-take). Dr. Lee also discusses his research demonstrating that we aren’t nearly as good at detecting lies as we think they are. This talk (and the related research) is near and dear to my heart having studied lie-telling with one of Dr. Lee’s colleagues, Dr. Victoria Talwar (McGill University) during my undergraduate studies.


BIG MAGIC – ELIZABETH GILBERT

Lately, I’ve been sharing my appreciation for “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray Love”) with anyone who will listen. This wonderful book touches on how the need for creativity, be it through writing, painting, music, or innovation of any kind, is universal. It is not frivolous or self-indulgent, but rather deeply meaningful and even necessary. Gilbert’s message about how fear and self-criticism can interfere with our creative process and well-being will resonate with anyone who is interested in Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability (Brown, 2010, 2012). Overall, “Big Magic” is a great choice for anyone who struggles with perfectionism or self-critical thoughts and is looking to pursue a passion, be it a creative hobby or career path.


THE 5-MINUTE JOURNAL

Here at Connecte we often talk about the importance of gratitude. This isn’t surprising since the practice of reflecting on the people, things, and experiences we have to be grateful for can greatly improve our mental and physical well-being (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010; Rash Matsuba, & Prkachin, 2011). However, it can be difficult to find time to practice gratitude on a regular basis. The 5-Minute Journal provides the ideal solution and structure. In the morning, you are encouraged to list three things you are grateful for as well as three things that would make your day great. In the evening, you are prompted to reflect on three positive things that happened that day. It also includes motivational quotes and challenges to help you make the most of each day. Check it out here: The 5-Minute Journal. For more on the importance of gratitude check out Andrea’s recent blog post.


SETTING LIMITS ON TEEN’S SOCIAL MEDIA USE

At one point or another, most parents have likely been frustrated with their teen’s frequent social media use. Although a moderate amount of social media use is expected and perfectly normal, recent research suggests that youth who are heavy users of social media (e.g., more than 2 hours a day) have poorer mental health outcomes (Sidani et al., 2016). Heavy usage of social media can also interfere with sleep and physical activity and create unrealistic expectations related to relationships and body image. That being said, it can be difficult as a parent to know how to regulate teen’s use of technology and social media. In the following article, Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, provides 10 helpful tips for setting limits. Read more about teens' mental health and social media use here: Here's Why Social Media Harms Your Teen's Mental Health.

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Tobey's Picks

Tobey's Picks

 
 

HOW TO HELP BOYS EXPRESS THEIR FEELINGS

More attention is being paid to the importance of making space for our emotions, and learning how to express ourselves effectively. It appears, however, that there continues to be a stigma surrounding which emotions are considered appropriate for each gender.

Research and theory have suggested that various parental, cultural, and societal influences contribute to a divergence in emotional expression between genders (Fisher, 2000). Ultimately, gender stereotypes suggest that it is more appropriate for girls to express their difficulties with sadness, fear, and worry, whereas boys are meant to express their pain with anger. This expectation, however, leads boys and men to not have access to proper tools to express the range of human emotions. Read on to learn more about suggested tools to encourage boys to become comfortable with all of their emotions: 10 Tips on Helping Teen Boys Express Their Feelings.


ARE WE MEANT TO BE HAPPY? OR WHOLE?

So much of our culture is focused on one shared goal – the pursuit of happiness! Though happiness seems desirable, making happiness our ultimate goal may lead us to feel especially discouraged when confronted with life’s normal ups and downs, as well as the objective difficulties that all individuals confront at various times in their lives. Further, researcher finds that even once a person achieves a goal that they associate with being happy, they eventually grow accustomed to the change and its novelty and positive impact on mood diminishes (Macini, Bonanno, & Clark, 2011). The following blog explores the importance of pursing a life that includes all emotions, with a goal of being “whole” and not just happy: “Positive thinking” has turned happiness into a duty and a burden, says a Danish psychologist.


WHEN TO LET GO

We often find ourselves stuck in a situation where we can’t seem to let go of an upsetting or frustrating event. We catch ourselves becoming distracted during the day when ruminating about these events, which removes us from the present moment and robs of us our ability to enjoy what is right in front of us.  So why do we keep our minds stuck on these moments? Sometimes we think that if we let something go, we’re saying that we’re okay with what happened. The truth is that letting go simply allows you to live more freely regardless of what’s happened. Research supports this notion that accepting our situation as it is, and letting go of negative experiences in our mind, allows us to feel more connected and present in our daily life (Ciarrochi, Bilich, & Godsel, 2010). The following article explores this notion further and highlights why it’s so helpful to sometimes let go of that which is no longer serving us: The Cost of Holding On.


OUR NEVER-ENDING SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS

I often find myself caught up in thoughts about “I’ll be happy when…”. The following article highlights that the search for happiness prevents us from being in the present moment, and can leave us stuck in a cycle of always looking ahead for what will make us happy in the future. We also tend to believe that one thing will bring us happiness, but once we achieve it, we realize that the joy is fleeting and we’re already onto the next thing. This phenomenon is further explored in the following article, which is based on research that highlights the difficulty of our never-ending search for happiness: Why You Shouldn't Want to Always Be Happy.


SHOULD PARENTS TALK TO THEIR KIDS ABOUT THEIR WEIGHT? 

How should parents talk about weight with their children? Understandably, parents want their kids to be physically healthy, but it’s important to consider the mental health impact of sending the wrong message. A recent study shows that even passing comments can have a long-term negative impact on a daughter’s self-esteem (Wansink, Latimer, Pope, 2016). This article discusses the negative impact of commenting on a child’s weight, and alternatives on how to best support a healthy lifestyle for the entire family.


CAN PERSONALITY BE CHANGED?

We all have the thought that if only we could be more outgoing, more conscientious, more organized, etc., our lives would improve. We also have the tendency to think that those desires are enough to actually lead to change. For example, if I say I’ll be more on time, in the future I’ll hopefully be more on time. However, that’s not quite how change works. Research suggests that we need concrete, attainable goals in order to see changes (Hudson & Fraley, 2015). Read on to develop a better understanding of personality and our ability to see real changes in ourselves: Can Personality Be Changed?

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Ava's Picks

Ava's Picks

 
 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts recently and this episode of Love and Radio has been one of my favourites. I love it because for me, it really drives home a couple of things. First, always close your blinds! Second, and more importantly, even when you feel alone, someone, somewhere is pulling for you and wants you to be okay :) Knowing this can be helpful, given that research has long shown the importance of social support (Cobb, 1976). Just an FYI, you may want to cry while listening to this...


HAVING TROUBLE FEELING HAPPY?

We all want to be happy but for some it can seem really difficult to achieve. There are many reasons why, and this article discusses a few of them. The good news is that because much of happiness is under our control, it is possible for us to get there with some changes. See Andrea's blog post for ways you can increase your level of happiness.


So many people come in and ask “How can I be happy?!” There are many facets to it, and it means something different for everyone, but research has shown that there is a meaningful link between gratitude and well being (Sansone & Sansone, 2012). I believe very strongly in practicing what I preach, which is why I take time at the end of every day to reflect on what it is that I am grateful for. In this TED talk, David Steindl-Rast speaks about the relationship between happiness and gratefulness in a way that has really stuck with me. (And check out Andrea's blog post, "Want to Maximize your Potential? Get Happier!" for more tips on how to increase happiness!).


STOP, BREATHE & THINK APP

I am huge fan of apps, especially the free ones :) One that l have been recommending a lot lately is Stop, Breathe & Think, which is described as a “free meditation app to help you be more mindful and compassionate”. It has a number of different guided meditations available that I have found really helpful when looking for something to help me take a pause in my day. Available for both Android and iOS!

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Annélie's Picks

Annélie's Picks

 
 

Why should we strive for more self-compassion rather than a higher self-esteem? Kristin Neff discusses how it is a good thing to have a positive global evaluation of oneself. However, seeking high self-esteem can be problematic depending on how we go about it, and it is contingent upon success (Neff, 2011). If said success is not reached, self-criticism tends to rear its head. In such settings, she encourages us to be more compassionate and less harsh towards ourselves. Her definition of self-compassion describes 3 components: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.  To find out more about these components, check out Krisitn Neff’s talk at TEDx Centennial ParkWomen.

CBT-I COACH

CBT- I Coach is a mobile application provided by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Insomnia. This application is designed for people in therapy for insomnia with the CBT approach. However, it can also be used by people struggling with insomnia and seeking helpful tools to improve their sleeping habits (winding down, schedule worry time, change your perspective, breathing technique). It is noteworthy to mention it is not intended to replace therapy. Strong evidenced-based data suggests CBT-I is effective (Siebern & Mander 2011). Check it out! (And check out Ava's blog post, "Getting Back to Bed" for more tips on dealing with sleep issues!).

Brent's Picks

Brent's Picks

 
 

My search for a pick this month led me to several TED talks that were interesting; but I rarely found speakers as touching and authentic as Brené Brown. She only gets into the topic of shame around the halfway point (so skip ahead to 9:45 if you are in a hurry), but the introduction is worth the wait. Often thought of as an emotion that isolates, shame is ironically universal. Brown clues us in on how looking at shame may bring us back to connection. Who cares? Well, a recent study showed that in 174 children, shame predicts depressive symptoms, internalizing issues, and social anxiety later in life (Mills, et al., 2015)…It’s time to listen.


This is Water, by David Foster Wallace

This short videogram is an excerpt of a commencement address that Wallace gave to Kenyon College’s 2005 graduating class. Bear with me on this one, it’s sometimes cheesy music may turn some of you off. But the underlying message is very touchingly and amusingly delivered: that our choice in how we relate to events has a huge impact on how we experience these events. Although Wallace was a writer, not a psychologist or researcher, his underlying message rings true with acceptance and commitment therapy’s underlying premise that much of human suffering evolves from an unruly use of the problem-solving mode of mind (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 2012).

*Editor's note (important 2-in-1 learning experience in this videogram): Despite its important and poignant message, this videogram was almost taken off our site. In Wallace’s attempt not to sugar coat the ways in which we may very automatically and harshly judge certain people and situations, he—perhaps unsuspectingly—propagates fat shaming and offensive stereotypes of overweight individuals. To some of us, these aspects of the video probably go unnoticed, like water. For others who struggle to relate to the thin main characters, this “water” represents something in our culture that is rampant, mindlessly socially accepted, and that perpetuates the problem of obesity—one of the world’s most important health problems. To learn more about obesity and why some people live with it despite efforts to eat well and exercise avidly, check out articles and news on the Canadian Obesity Network. You can also read about why fat shaming is unhelpful in some of our previous picks (Lisa’s pick / Jodie’s pick).

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Janie's Picks

Janie's Picks

 
 

Art Therapy Myths Busted!

As an art-therapy intern, I can feel a curiosity around me about WHAT is art-therapy. We also hear more and more about art-therapy in newspapers, blogs, community projects, books, interviews, and so on. From this curiosity, questions and myths about the field of art-therapy often arise. Can art-therapists read my mind through my drawings? Is it only for kids? Is it only for artists? Is it art classes? Is it a credible field? This blog entry from Amy Jonhson Maricle, art-therapist (MA), does a good job of addressing those myths and questions about art-therapy. You can also browse her other posts to get some tips on how to get started with your creativity.


"L’art-thérapie, une ressource négligée en santé mentale"

À l’invitation du Musée des beaux Arts de Montréal (MBAM), des projets en partenariat avec le MBAM et le département de thérapies par les arts de l’Université Concordia ont récemment été développés. Le nouveau Pavillon pour la Paix Michal et Renata Hornstein ouvrira ses portes à la fin de 2016 avec des espaces dédiés à l’art-thérapie.  Josée Leclerc (PhD), art-thérapeute, psychothérapeute, professeure et directrice du programme de maîtrise en art-thérapie à Concordia travaille depuis de nombreuses années à la reconnaissance de l’art-thérapie et à l’innovation de projets, tel celui en partenariat avec le MBAM, le programme des troubles alimentaires de l’Institut Douglas et Concordia. Dans une entrevue accordée au journal Le Devoir, elle explique comment l’art-thérapie peut aider à répondre à la grande demande d’aide en santé mentale au Québec et au mieux-être des personnes ou collectivités. Connecte est une clinique novatrice dans son ouverture aux différentes approches et qui voit la combinaison des connaissances et professions comme une force pour répondre le mieux possible aux besoins de chacun et chacune.


Documentaire: L'art fait du bien

L’artiste est souvent définit comme étant une personne privilégiée d’un certain talent naturel. Il peut sembler difficile de se valoriser par notre créativité si nous ne répondons pas aux normes esthétiques établies. Pourtant, chacun de nous possède une créativité unique. Elle nous aide à faire des choix, trouver des solutions, jouer, faire preuve d’ingéniosité, démontrer de la sensibilité, etc. De prendre contact avec cette créativité a permis à plusieurs personnes de voir la vie différemment. Le documentaire l’Art Fait du Bien (réalisé par Jean-Sebastien Ouellette), nous présente des personnes pour qui cette rencontre avec leur créativité les a aidé dans leur cheminement. Certains sont artistes professionnels, d’autres non. De tout âge et de tout horizon, ces personnes ont en commun une bataille souffrante dans laquelle l’art est un allié important. L’une d’entre eux se bat spécifiquement contre l’anorexie et a pu trouver dans la création une source de réconfort et une redécouverte du plaisir (17 min, 43 sec.).

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Natsumi's Picks

Natsumi's Picks

 
 

This short video talks about why trying to avoid our difficult thoughts and feelings often backfires and keeps us “stuck” in unhelpful patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour. The video talks about how to better deal with difficult thoughts and feelings in way that allows us to work towards the things that are the most important to us and live a more meaningful life.


 The University of California San Diego Centre for Mindfulness

Mindfulness is both a practice and a particular state of awareness that is associated with a number of psychological benefits including decreased stress and emotional reactivity, decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, and better focus and working memory. This website provides a large number of free audio guides to support your mindfulness practice. It includes guided meditation and yoga practices.


 The Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University

This website contains lots of useful information including blog posts, podcasts, and other resources as well as self-help tips and suggestions on how to overcome procrastination.


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Simcha's Picks

Simcha's Picks

 
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FEELING “BAD”? LET’S NARROW THAT DOWN

Emotional granularity is the ability to narrow down what emotions you are experiencing in more precise terms, for example, specifying that you feel irritable or angry instead of saying that you generally feel “bad”. Having a better sense of exactly what we are feeling could help guide us towards more specific actions, and some research suggests that this ability is related to better psychological and social functioning (Smidt & Suvak, 2015). Check out this New York Times article to learn more about this and how you can help develop your own emotional granularity!

STICKS AND STONES: THE PAIN OF SOCIAL REJECTION

We can all probably agree that being socially accepted by others feels good and that being rejected can be pretty painful, but did you know that some brain areas that have been linked with enduring physical pain may also be involved when we undergo social rejection (Kross, Berman, Mischel, Smith, & Wager, 2011; but see Woo et al., 2014)? In this article, psychologist Guy Winch explains why this might be, how we might be inadvertently making social rejection more painful for ourselves than it has to be, and how we can react more adaptively to social rejection in the future.


Most of us can agree that we would like to live long, happy and healthy lives. But where can we devote our time and energy so that we are more likely to have such positive outcomes? Findings from the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which studied the same group of individuals for decades, suggest that the quality of our social relationships is an important predictor of later well-being (Waldinger, Cohen, Schulz, & Crowell, 2015; Waldinger & Schulz, 2010). Watch this TED talk by the study's director, Dr. Robert Waldinger, to learn more!


DON'T FRET: SOME WORRIES ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

Many of us tend to have mixed views about worry: we don’t like experiencing it and sometimes even try to suppress worry-related thoughts on the one hand, but we also think that worrying can help us (perhaps by preparing us in some way for the negative event that we are anticipating) (see Davey, Tallis, & Capuzzo, 1996). Check out this New York Times article, in which Roni Caryn Rabin explains that certain kinds of worry are more constructive than others and provides some tips for how we can manage our worries.


Oxytocin - The Next Big Anti-Anxiety Medication?

The neurohormone oxytocin is attracting a lot of attention in both popular media and scientific communities! Some studies suggest that oxytocin nasal sprays have social benefits, including making people more trusting (Kosfeld, Heinrichs, Zak, Fischbacher & Fehr, 2005) and generous (Zak, Stanton, Ahmadi, 2007). Other studies have found relationships between levels of oxytocin and psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety (see Neumann & Landgraf, 2012). Does that mean that oxytocin will be the basis for the next big anti-anxiety medication? Not necessarily. See this article by researcher Paul Zak to find out why it’s not quite that simple.


Breaking the Cycle Between Depression and Inactivity

Decades of research have shown the benefits of exercise on mood (Dinas, Koutedakis, & Flouris, 2011). Many people report that they have less desire or energy to do things like daily chores, socializing, and exercising when they’re feeling depressed. This makes sense because decreased motivation, energy and pleasure can be symptoms of depression! The problem is that this can create a cycle where we feel down so we become more inactive/sedentary, but then this inactivity makes us feel even more down. Check out this link to learn more about how you can make small changes to your activity level in order to help break this cycle and improve your mood.


Saying and Getting What You Want in Your Romantic Relationship

When we think “Valentine’s Day”, we think love, flowers, and chocolate. But we all know that relationships aren’t always that simple or easy. Visit this link to learn why it is so important to tell our partners what we want, and how we can go about doing this!


How To Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people notice that the weather can affect their mood. Visit this link to learn more about the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and what we can do to help improve our mood during the darker and gloomier winter months.


Why Using Facebook Makes You Feel Bad

Ever feel like other people seem to lead a more charmed life than you do? Or at least that’s what it looks like on their Facebook pages… Check out this article to see why we might be getting a skewed sample from social media, and how we can guard against its negative impact on our mood!


DR. LISA FIRESTONE: HOW YOUR ATTACHMENT STYLE IMPACTS YOUR RELATIONSHIP

Ever wonder why some people seem to connect easily with others, while others have trouble trusting or relying on their partners? In this Psychology Today article, Dr. Lisa Firestone explains these different attachment styles, their bases in early childhood experiences, and perhaps most importantly, that these styles can be changed over time. Which attachment pattern best describes you?


Are you, or someone close to you, considered an introvert? Is being an introvert a bad thing or a good thing? In this TED talk, Susan Cain highlights the many advantages of being an introvert in a society that places high value upon extraversion. I also recommend her book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.


DR. ALEX KORB: FIX YOUR SLEEP HYGIENE

Sleep is something that comes easily to some, but can be daunting to others. For those of us who have had longstanding trouble falling or staying asleep, counting sheep may not be enough. In this article, Dr. Alex Korb gives 14 tips to improve the quality of your sleep, which can have a big impact on both your mood and your ability to concentrate at work.


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Michelle's Picks

Michelle's Picks

 
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WHEREVER YOU GO THERE YOU ARE – JON KABAT-ZINN

You may have heard the word Mindfulness thrown around in pop culture a lot lately, but may not know what it really is, or may find that you get mixed messages about it. Put simply, Mindfulness is living with awareness in the present moment. It is trying (as best you can) not to live in the past, or get so caught up in planning for the future that you miss what is happening right now. It is about accepting your experiences, rather than rejecting and controlling them. This beautiful little book is a wonderful introduction for anyone who is interested in learning about Mindfulness, or who wants to bring more Mindfulness into their everyday life.


“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original”. So says Ken Robinson in this talk about education and different kinds of intelligence. At its core, this is a talk about diversity, and about accepting and nurturing people as they are. It is about fostering motivation from within. Incidentally, I re-listened to it on my walk to work today to make sure that I wanted to recommend it and ended up laughing out loud more than once. If that’s not a reason to listen (or re-listen) to it, I don’t know what is.   


7 STRANGE QUESTIONS THAT HELP YOU FIND YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE – MARK MANSON

In Mark Manson’s own words: “I write personal development advice that doesn’t suck”. He’s nothing if not honest. Mark writes frankly about topics ranging from career advice, to relationship advice, to “the subtle art of not giving a @#$%”. His articles are based on scientific literature, as well as his own life experiences. I find them insightful and relatable. The link provided here takes you to one article of his. If it floats your boat, there are plenty more on his blog where that one came from. 


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Lisa's Picks

Lisa's Picks

 
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Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?

We can all agree that loneliness and social rejection cause emotional suffering. Indeed, an infinite number of songs have been sung about this very topic. Turn on your local country music or top 40 stations for a taste! Often when we describe social rejection, we use words that connote physical pain, like “broken” heart and emotional “scars”. It turns out, as outlined in this article, that social pain may be processed in the same brain regions as physical pain. In other words, social isolation doesn’t just feel bad; it may affect us on a biological and neurological level in the same way as physical pain. Although more research needs to be done on these findings (e.g., Eisenberger, 2015), it’s encouraging to see researchers taking loneliness seriously, as social isolation has been linked to everything from symptoms of depression and anxiety (Cacioppo, Hawkley, & Thisted, 2010), to an increased risk of heart disease (Valtorta, Kanaan, Gilbody, Ronzi, & Hanratty, 2016), to an increased risk of an early death (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, Baker, Harris, & Stephenson, 2015). It’s no wonder why in 1999 musician Moby wondered with so much sadness and angst, “Why does my heart feel so bad?” Maybe now we know!


Why is My Life So Hard? The Headwinds/Tailwinds asymmetry

Much research demonstrates that gratitude contributes to our physical and mental health and life satisfaction (Emmons & McCullough, 2003), yet typically we find it difficult to be regularly grateful. Why, despite the many things most of us reading this have to be grateful for, we are likely more focussed on our challenges and obstacles? Are we all just terrible, ungrateful people? In this Freakonomics podcast episode, Why is My Life So Hard?, social psychologists Shai Davidai and Thomas Gilovich discuss their recent research paper (Davidai & Gilovich, 2016) exploring this phenomenon, what is referred to as the headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry. They describe how we are more likely to pay attention to barriers because we have to overcome them in some way, whereas we don’t really need to focus on the things that are helping us along, because we can just let them be without much intervention. As a result, we tend to forget about the less visible things that make our lives good, like a free society, the opportunities we have, for many our ability to walk, talk and dance, and more easily notice the barriers, people, bureaucracy, etc. getting in our way. To begin to notice our tailwinds more, the authors suggest, when practicing gratitude, in addition to asking yourself, “What do I have to be grateful for?”, add “What are the ways I’m boosted along? What are the invisible things that are helping me?” For more, check out the interview here!


HEALING TRAUMA THROUGH OUR BODIES AND MINDS

In this rich discussion of trauma by Maria Popova of Brainpickings, she summarizes and cites the work of psychiatrist and PTSD researcher Van der Kolk, in which he discusses the importance of “engaging the body in healing”. Van der Kolk describes how people who suffer with trauma learn to shut down parts of their brain that are responsible for visceral emotions, including terror, but as a result cut themselves off from a range of emotions and sensations that form the foundation for our sense of self. He then goes on to discuss how an essential part of overcoming trauma is learning how to be more comfortable with our bodies and its sensations. He describes that, “If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations….you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self.” A longer article, but well worth the read: The Science of How Our Minds and Our Bodies Converge in the Healing of Trauma


WHEN THERE’S NO ROOM FOR SELF-CRITICISM

I found this article, How a Triathlon Helped America Ferrera Defy Her Inner Critic, particularly relatable in that it demonstrated just how stubborn a self-critical voice can be, even for Emmy award winner America Ferrera. Ms. Ferrera was all too aware of her self-critical voice, but even after 8 years of therapy, it was still hard for her to kick it. That is, until it became very clear to her (and others) that self-criticism was getting in the way of something she really wanted - completing a triathlon. She realized that in order to do a triathlon, there was no room for self-criticism. Indeed, positive moods (vs. the negative ones brought on by a self-critical voice, for example) have been found to contribute to better performance (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). Check out the article for more, How a Triathlon Helped America Ferrera Defy Her Inner Critic, and as you’re reading it you might consider how your self-critical voice gets in the way of your goals.


CONFRONTING OFFENSIVE COMMENTS

There is no simple or perfectly correct way to confront someone who is making offensive comments. Psychologists (including myself) recommend being assertive and directly and firmly stating your opinion. For example, “That’s offensive. I don’t appreciate that comment.” I firmly stand by the recommendation to be assertive, to stick up for yourself and your values, but I acknowledge that real-world situations are messy. What if it’s your boss making the offensive comment, or someone you know to be verbally aggressive or emotionally volatile? I appreciated this article, Lessons in the Delicate Art of Confronting Offensive Speech, because it gives options for communicating to someone that what they’re saying is not okay. It discusses how to push back in ways that will potentially lead to less defensiveness in the other person (Czopp, Monteith, & Mark, 2006). Their suggestions include changing the subject, nicely and respectfully “correcting” the person’s offensive language, appealing to the value of fairness, and using humour. Check it out here for some tips!


COPING WITH CHRONIC PAIN

Many of us will have physical ailments in our lifetime that will lead to pain. Fortunately, this pain is usually temporary, but what if it doesn’t go away? In this moving article, author Jodi Ettenberg describes how she copes with chronic pain, the challenges of having an “invisible illness”, the difference between “healing” and “curing”, and how she has found some ways to take back control in her difficult situation, including her attitude towards pain and her self-care. Drawing from the psychological research of Jon Kabat-Zinn and Kristin Neff, she has discovered some behaviours and ways of thinking that have helped her cope, including meditation, acceptance, morning and evening routines, and gratitude. Check out her article, How I learned to cope with chronic pain, for more.


VULNERABILITY, TRAUMA, AND MINDFULNESS

In this short article and podcast, Barry Boyce discusses how mindfulness can be used to help people with trauma - Point of View: When Vulnerability and Trauma Collide (see also Polusny et al., 2015). Boyce talks about how through mindfulness we can learn to connect with our bodies and with what’s going on in our minds in a way that allows us to explore our triggers, our anxious thoughts, our suffering, without piling more pain on top of the pain. In other words, through non-judgmental acceptance, he describes how we can healthily connect with what’s going on inside of us. He also talks about the importance of connecting with others, recognizing that we all are vulnerable and many of us experience traumas, thereby increasing compassion and decreasing social isolation. 


CONNECTION AND MEANING AT BURNING MAN

If you’ve heard of Burning Man, you may wonder why I’m mentioning it in the context of mental health and psychology. This article highlighted some things I’ve wondered about Burning Man: Overworked America’s obsession with Burning Man is a cry for help. In our everyday lives, do we lack authentic self-expression and deep connection, and is the opportunity to fulfill these needs partly what attracts people to Burning Man? We know that having solid relationships and caring for others are associated with health and happiness, and creativity and spirituality can be pathways to creating meaning in our lives (Baumeister, Vohs, Aaker, & Garbinsky, 2013), all of which are encouraged and promoted at Burning Man. Perhaps Burning Man is more than just an epic party in the desert, but also a way to inject our lives with some much-needed connection and meaning. 


DEBUNKING MYTHS ABOUT SUICIDE

Suicide is not an uplifting topic, but as a mental health professional I feel it’s my responsibility to encourage a dialogue about suicide, not to mention inform myself. This article, Five Myths about Suicide, debunks some myths around suicide, and points out how (at least in the US) it is a significantly underfunded leading cause of death. Although there are many well-intentioned programs out there, and we know some of the factors that put people at risk for suicide, much more research needs to be done when it comes to suicide prevention (e.g., Oquendo & Courtet, 2015). In light of the recent suicide crises in Attawapiskat, Ontario and Pimicikamak, Manitoba, it seems there’s no better time than now to better our understanding of suicide.


THAT INTRIGUING FEELING OF AWE

Have you ever experienced feelings of awe? Maybe you were looking out over a valley after reaching the summit of a mountain, or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to see the northern lights light up the sky in all their glory. Psychologists are becoming increasingly interested in feelings of awe (Keltner & Haidt, 2003) and how these feelings promote a sense of connectedness to something greater than ourselves. The experience of awe has also been linked to an expanded perception of time and a greater wiliness to help others (Rudd, Vohs, & Aaker, 2012). Check out this article, Scientists Are Trying to Solve the Mystery of Awe, which not only discusses the science behind awe but also has some really cool quotes from astronauts viewing Earth from space for the first time.


BRENÉ BROWN: THE ANATOMY OF TRUST

What exactly do we mean when we say, “I don’t trust you”? Trust is something that is so fundamental to our well-being, yet most of us have difficulty articulating what trust is. In this touching and informative lecture, researcher Brené Brown discusses the anatomy of trust and describes how trust is built on small moments (e.g., Gottman & Silver, 2012). Based on the data, she has come up with an acronym that describes the different components of trust: B.R.A.V.I.N.G. B.R.A.V.I.N.G includes having clear boundaries and respecting others’ boundaries, being reliable and holding yourself accountable to your mistakes, keeping things in the “valt”, demonstrating integrity and acting in line with your values, not judging others when they ask for help, and making generous assumptions about others’ behaviours and intentions. Check out Brené Brown’s SuperSoul Sessions talk, The Anatomy of Trust.


MARIA KONNIKOVA ON LEARNING RESILIENCE

Not everyone who experiences a stressful or traumatic event is negatively affected (Werner, 1989). Researchers have attributed one’s ability to adapt to stressors and “bounce back” from difficult situations to one’s resilience. I found this article helpful because it explains not just what resilience is, but how we can develop it. It turns out the way we think about things can increase our resilience. If we perceive a stressful or traumatic event as an opportunity to learn and grow, we may recover more quickly. Moreover, having an “internal locus of control” (Rotter, 1954); that is, believing we can influence our environments and have some control over our own fate, leads to more resilience. Check out this article for more on how to become resilient!


In this TEDx talk, Steven Hayes, psychologist and founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), shares his personal struggles with Panic Disorder. Like most of us, he initially tried to run from or fight against his anxiety, but after much struggle he came to the realization that what he needed to do was turn toward his experience, and stand with his experience in a kind and loving way. He describes how this psychological flexibility, directing our attention flexibly to our internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, physical sensations), and then choosing to move towards what we think is important, is associated with improved mental health and well-being (Levin, Hildebrandt, Lillis, & Hayes, 2012). Moreover, Hayes emphasizes that bringing love to our experiences and ourselves even when it’s hard opens the door for living a more meaningful and purposeful life. 


Fat-shaming isn’t just cruel; it doesn’t work

This article describes how a downright disturbing campaign to shame overweight people is not only cruel, but ineffective. The author points to a study showing that people who experience weight discrimination gained more weight than those we didn’t report weight discrimination (Sutin & Terracciano, 2013), and a survey demonstrating that anti-obesity campaigns with “blaming” messages are perceived as less motivating than ones with more neutral messages or ones that don’t mention obesity or weight at all (Puhl, Peterson, & Luedicke, 2013). Unfortunately, the idea that we should shame people into losing weight is pervasive. I think an overhaul of the ways in which we try to motivate people to lose weight is long overdue.


Bettering Your Brain Through Nature

Throughout history, humans have lauded the benefits of nature. Yet, as stated in this article, “According to research by the Harvard School of Public Health, American adults spend less time outdoors than they do inside vehicles—less than 5 percent of their day.” In an effort to increase our awareness of the benefits of nature, more and more researchers are exploring how nature helps us. Through measurements of stress hormones, respiration, heart rate, and sweating, they are finding that being in nature, or even looking at images of nature, significantly reduces stress, increases concentration and performance and maybe even problem-solving skills. Check out this article to learn more about the mental health wonders of nature! 


Why Including the Body in Eating Disorders Treatment is So Important

As a psychologist who treats eating disorders, one of the biggest challenges I find is helping my clients develop a non-distorted and positive view of their bodies. More and more I’m learning that getting to know the body at a sensory level is extremely important for developing a balanced and less distorted view of our bodies. For example, noticing the temperature of your breath as you inhale or exhale, focusing on the sensations of the skin that is covering your feet, etc. This article, drawing from research in neuroscience, discusses how awareness of our bodies at a sensory level, not just at a surface level, is important for a healthy sense of self. 


Fostering Creativity and "Epic" Self-Compassion with Elizabeth Gilbert

In this podcast, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses how to balance living a creative life while being practical, how to honour and live in line with our values without getting attached to outcomes, and how to balance what the ego wants and what our souls want (wonder, connection, creativity, forgiveness, and empathy), as well as how to foster “epic” self-compassion. Not only did I find this podcast personally inspiring, but it highlights and expands on many important concepts I discuss in my therapy sessions with clients.


A SHOCKINGLY SMALL AMOUNT OF RUNNING CAN BOOST YOUR HEALTH

When people suggest that you run, does it feel like they’re saying, “Hey, why don’t you climb Mount Everest?” For the majority of my life, I felt this way too. I was that kid in high school who couldn’t make it around the track. With the help of friends, I eventually started running, 2-minutes at a time, and now when I run it no longer feels like someone is repeatedly punching me in the stomach :) This short article and video talks about how even a small amount of running (or walking!) can have positive health benefits. Not to mention the benefits for our mental health.


'Eat Up': How Cultural Messages Can Lead To Eating Disorders

 Although I would argue that it’s a variety of factors - not just cultural messages - that lead to eating disorders, I decided to “pick” this article because I do believe that we often neglect to consider cultural differences in the messages people are given about food, weight, and shape.  In this article, women of various cultural backgrounds share their stories and the need for culturally relevant treatments is discussed.


Who doesn’t want more “loving kindness” in their lives?! Meditation teacher and clinical psychologist Tara Brach defines loving kindness as, “embracing ourselves and all beings with a full and tender loving presence.” In this 22 minute loving kindness meditation, Tara Brach helps us cultivate a tender, loving acceptance for and awareness of ourselves and others. Loving kindness is immensely beneficial not only for ourselves, but our relationships and the world around us. Let Tara Brach guide you!


Beauty Refined: 5-Step Game Plan to Feel Better About Your Body  

For many of us, feeling consistently good about our bodies is a foreign experience. The founders of Beauty Redefined are passionate, inspiring women who hope to help us do just that. Check out this article for tips on how to feel better about your body and counter the not-so-body-positive messages we are bombarded with every day!


 Emotionally Vague

Have you ever found it difficult to describe what you’re feeling? Emotionally Vague is a research project about the body and emotions asking: How do people feel anger, joy, fear, sadness, and love? It turns out, words are not the only way to describe what we’re feeling. Click on “results” to see the multitude of ways people experience and express emotions.


 “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy”

If we only pursued happiness in our lives, would we be satisfied and fulfilled? This article by Emily Esfahani featured in The Atlantic explores what it means to lead a meaningful life and how giving oneself to others, experiencing negative events and suffering, and having a clearly defined purpose contribute to meaning. 


RISE UP AND RECOVER APP

This eating disorder monitoring and management app from Recovery Warriors is exceptionally comprehensive and easy-to-use. In addition to a food journal, it’s jam-packed with inspiring content and useful activities and tips, including motivational quotes, mindfulness and body image and other recovery exercises (e.g., thinking about what “recovery” means to you), and tips for what to do in times of distress.


CHRIS HADFIELD'S ADVICE ON APPRECIATING THE NOW

“The real delight in life is what is happening right now” (Chris Hadfield). Check out this short clip featuring retired Canadian astronaut, philosopher, musician, and generally awesome person Chris Hadfield as he discusses how to appreciate the seemingly insignificant moments of our day-to-day lives.


Money has commonly been considered a powerful motivator when it comes to performance. In this short and engaging RSA Animate video, based on Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us, widespread beliefs about motivation are called into question, including the effectiveness of money as a motivator. Using fun and easy-to-understand illustrations, this video describes research showing that autonomy, mastery, and purpose can help us not only perform better at work but feel more fulfilled.


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Andrea's Picks

Andrea's Picks

 
 

Parents, it’s time to make your self-care a priority (yes, I am adding something to your to-do list, but you’re going to thank me for it soon enough!)

This is a wonderful article aimed at parents on the importance of taking time for self-care. Prioritizing self-care is something I often find myself talking about with my clients, particularly with parents of babies or young children (often its mothers of young little ones, because most my clients are women). Many of the mothers I see in the office challenge me by saying that they just don’t have time for self-care because they have too much going on. It’s because of these reports of feeling that they have “too much going on” that makes me emphasize the importance of taking time for self-care. As the popular saying goes: “you cannot pour from an empty cup”.  Its well-known that self-care is important in maintaining good mental and physical health. Data from the Well-being Module from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) also revealed that parents reported parenting as their most meaningful activity but also as being the most exhausting (as reported in Wang 2013), suggesting that self-care in parents might be of even greater importance in maintaining good mental and physical health. In her article, Lindsey (2017) shares different strategies for scheduling time for self-care, including some she experimented with herself! I highly recommend parents (or any care provider for that matter) take a few minutes to check out the article for some helpful tips on making self-care a priority. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish! Self-care means giving the world the best of you, instead of what is left of you.


Helping our children through the use of mindfulness

Sitting still like a frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) written by Eline Snel - This is a fabulous book accompanied by a CD that was recently recommended to me by another mother at my children’s school. The book includes a series of meditation/mindfulness exercises and is accompanied by a CD of audio recordings of the exercises and they are narrated by Myla Kabat-Zinn (Jon Kabat-Zinn’s wife!). Myla Kabat-Zinn has a very soothing voice which helps to foster feelings of calm and relaxation. I have had the pleasure of trying a couple of the recordings out with my own children and have found that not only do they appear (and report!) to enjoy them, I can see they are more relaxed once they have done the exercises (and I admit to feeling more relaxed and centered as well when I join in. Win-win!). Studies have demonstrated that mindfulness not only reduces feelings of stress, but also anxiety and depression in children (Raes et al., 2014). I found listening to these exercises to be a great way to connect with my little ones while helping them develop a valuable life skill (and all in under 10 minutes!). I highly recommend checking it out and giving it a try with your children. The audio recordings of the exercise are offered for free on the publisher’s website at www.shambhala.com/sittingstilllikeafrog. The last recording on the CD (“sleep tight”) is ideal for incorporating into a child’s bedtime routine. It’s also available online and if it helps get the kiddos to sleep more easily, that is worth a try (parents of young kiddos, isn’t getting the kids to sleep without a fuss something we are all after?). Enjoy!


In her Ted talk, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haims, discusses the risks of a style of parenting known as helicopter parenting. In her passionate (a little intense at times!), honest, witty and very convincing talk, she shares an important message about the disservice well intentioned parents are doing when micromanaging their children’s lives and imposing perfectionistic standards on their kids. She encourages parents to be less obsessed with our children’s success and to put more effort into helping them develop autonomy (give them chores!), genuinely connecting with them and expressing our unconditional love to them. Her suggestions are based on findings from The Harvard Grant Study (George E. Vaillant’s “Triumphs of Experience”), that demonstrated that professional success is linked to having done chores as a kid, and that genuine happiness comes from connections/relationships with others. Lythcott-Haims also has a book called “How to Raise an Adult” which I have yet to check out, but it’s on my reading list for 2017!


HELPING OUR CHILDREN BECOME MORE MINDFUL

"The Dog Who Chased His Tail" by Greg March is a beautiful children’s story that introduces the concept of mindfulness. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with your child while reading and introducing the idea of how we can quiet our busy mind to improve our focus. We have been hearing more and more about mindfulness and its benefits in children, and studies have demonstrated its benefits, such as reduced symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression (Raes et al., 2014). A review of the literature (Burke, 2009) also provided support for the feasibility and openness to mindfulness interventions in children and adolescents, but maintains that more rigorous research is needed to demonstrate its efficacy.  


A QUICK BREATHING EXERCISE TO HELP YOU DE-STRESS ON A BUSY DAY!

Want a quick self-care break during a busy day? Studies have demonstrated that we can change how we feel simply by focusing on our breath (Brown & Gerbarg 2012; Philippot et al. 2002). Check out this short but effective visual/animated breathing exercise, it’s a great little tool to help slow down your breathing if you’re feeling stressed out or anxious and don’t have much time. Give it a try!


AN INSPIRING WAY TO LOOK AT OUR ROLE AS PARENTS: CONSCIOUSLY AND AWAKENED!

Check out this awesome podcast on the Goodlife project interviewing Dr. Shefali, author of the “Awakened Family”, “The Conscious Parent”, and “Out of Control”.  In this enjoyable interview, Dr. Shefali shares with us a little about her past and her inspirational journey. She helps us understand the importance of being mindful of our children’s journey in allowing them to figure out who they are for themselves, and letting go of what we want and try to impose on them (often related to things we need to work on ourselves!). Conscious parenting she explains involves letting go of our own agenda for our children’s future and respecting their own desires and path. Enjoy this engaging and entertaining and inspiring podcast; and check out one of her books! They’re sure not to disappoint!


Check out this inspiring TedTalk by Andy Puddicombe, the creator of Headspace, the popular meditation app so many people are talking about and using (in fact, there are over 5 million Headspace users worldwide!). Puddicombe cites a study that demonstrated that humans tend to spend 47% of their day thinking about something other than what’s actually going on in the present moment and that this type of thinking contributes to feelings of unhappiness (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010). Puddicombe enlightens us to some of the benefits of taking just a mere 10 minutes a day to do "nothing" by engaging in the present moment.


LOCAL WEEKLY SUPPORT GROUP FOR WOMEN EXPERIENCING PERINATAL DEPRESSION OR ANXIETY

Our local Montreal media has published a couple of stories recently to try and help increase awareness and reduce stigma associated with perinatal mood disorders (postpartum depression and/or anxiety, etc). Approximately 20% of women experiences clinical depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum, and yet many don't get the help and support they need. Please spread the word about the wonderful work being done by MotherWit to provide a weekly support group (free of charge!) that meets regularly as well as a private closed Facebook group started by a Montreal mother (interviewed in the Montreal Gazette article below) allowing new mothers to support one and other (see Facebook group, Maternal Mental Wellness: by Moms for Moms.).

Please see the following articles for more information:


In this brief and entertaining TedTalk, Arianna Huffington talks about the importance of sleep. Huffington points out that in our society, people tend to brag about sleep deprivation, as if getting less sleep is something to be proud of?! In her witty talk (guaranteed to get a couple of giggles watching it!), she shares with us that, in fact, sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on one’s happiness, productivity and success. Research has also demonstrated that sleep deprivation can contribute to lower emotional intelligence (Killgore et al. 2008) and lower performance at work (Kessler et al. 2011). On that note, I think I’ll go catch some ZZZ’s! 


The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

For a long time, it was a common belief that hard work alone led to success, and that, in turn, this success would result in happiness. Studies in the area of positive psychology have proved that, in fact, the opposite is true: happiness fuels performance and success. In this fascinating book, Achor outlines his seven principles on how we can apply what he refers to as the “Happiness Advantage” to develop a happier mindset, which ultimately has a positive impact on our performance and success. I enjoyed this book so much, particularly because it included so many practical and helpful strategies. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post where I will share some of his strategies with you! 


In this engaging and entertaining TedTalk, Guy Winch points out that we teach our children to take care of their physical health but neglect to teach them about the importance of taking care of their mental health. I hadn’t heard of Guy Winch until recently and I was intrigued when I stumbled upon his Ted Talk, which I enjoyed immensely. He’s a very likeable speaker and his wittiness adds to one’s enjoyment of his talk.  Winch points out that we are often quick to see the doctor when we have a flu or a cold, but yet when faced with more difficult psychological challenges we have a tendency to try and figure things out on our own rather than seek professional help. He argues that we should take care of our mental health with as much care and attention as we do our physical health and he gives interesting examples of how to practice what he refers to as “emotional first aid”. The importance of mental health being overlooked is nothing new; just a couple of years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO; see http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/) reported that mental disorders such as depression are the leading cause of disability worldwide. What are we waiting for? Let’s start taking better care of our mental health and teaching our children to do the same! 


Tim Ferris and Jane McGonigal podcast: Getting More Done with Less Stress and the Health Benefits of Gaming

Wow! This was a fascinating podcast about the benefits of playing games on our well being in addition to our ability to be resilient. McGonigal talks about fascinating research on the benefits of using games and play. Research has demonstrated games to be helpful for overcoming head trauma, reducing the risk of developing PTSD after witnessing a trauma, reducing anxiety, helping to change a habit, etc. (Roepke, Jaffee, Riffle, McGonigal, Broome, & Bez, 2015). Looks like I have found a great excuse to play a little Tetris everyday! See this article describing the effects of "Superbetter" (McGonigal’s game) on depression, anxiety and general well being.


Jessica Lahey’s book, The Gift of Failure

 Parents, have you ever found yourself wondering if you are doing the right thing when it comes to your kids? In this recently published book, Jessica Lahey’s message echoes something we have heard more and more about in the media: Well-intentioned and loving parents who believe they are helping their kids are actually doing more damage than good when they hover. In her book she explains that in today’s society we have a tendency to be “overprotective” or “overparent” which, despite our good intentions, is actually doing our kids more harm than good. As a psychologist who works with children and their parents and as a parent of two young kids myself, Jessica Lahey’s message really hit home. This book does not disappoint!


Mandala coloring books

 You’ve probably noticed these “adult coloring books” around the bookstores and gift shops lately. They are becoming more and more popular. According to this Huffington Post article in July 2015 6 of the top 20 books being sold on amazon were adult coloring books! Read more about how coloring may actually have stress-reducing benefits. Get in touch with your inner child and try one out today!

 Check out this link to try a free adult coloring page. 


 In this engaging and entertaining TedTalk; Shawn Achor shares some interesting findings on happiness and success. He explains that contrary to what many of us believe (success breeds happiness), in fact, it is happiness that breeds success! If you want to learn more and even pick up a few tips on how to bring more happiness into your life, check out his TED talk. I challenge you to get through it without a giggle, not only is Shawn Achor an engaging speaker, he has a great sense of humour that shines through in this talk. Enjoy!

Check out this short video on how Shawn Achor’s “Happy Secret to Better Work” TED Talk inspired a couple of University students to engage in a random act of kindness during exam period. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to carry out your own random act of kindness? I have a couple of ideas to try myself after watching this! Let’s get our happy on! 


Cited as being one of the most successful Ted talks of all time (over 20 million views!), this is a powerful and engaging talk on living a fuller life by allowing ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable. Truly inspiring!


 Pacifica app

This self-help app is based on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and can be helpful for managing stress and anxiety. A great tool that can be used on its own or in combination with therapy for extra support applying techniques in between sessions.


 “Achieve more by doing less”

See the June 2015 issue of Mindful Magazine for full article.

A quick read by Christine Carter featured in Mindful Magazine with a great message: Don’t let busyness become a badge of honour. It is possible to be productive, yet do less and come out feeling great! Who wouldn’t want that? 


One of the most frequently viewed Ted Talks!  Amy Cuddy is a captivating speaker with an inspiring life story. In this Ted Talk, she shares her research findings on how our body language has an impact not only on how others perceive us, but also on our body chemistry, which in turn, has an impact on how we feel. Bring on the power poses! 


SIMPLY BEING APP

This is basically a simple guided meditation, which allows you to choose a 5, 10, 15, or 20-minute meditation. You can choose to have your meditation accompanied by music or a choice of pleasant nature sounds. A great tool for those looking for an initiation to guided meditation. 


FITBIT

This is a great tool to help motivate you to become more active. There are a number of different models available, but my personal pick is the Flex. Discreetly worn on your wrist like you would a bracelet, this little gadget tracks your steps and distance. It has a feature that allows you to track the quality of your sleep at night and can also be used as an alarm. There is an accompanying app available which allows you to sync your stats wirelessly and track your progress on your Smartphone and even support your friends with a Fitbit. A fun motivating tool! 


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Jodie's Picks

Jodie's Picks

 
 

I had the pleasure of spending two days in a workshop with this bright and passionate woman, Christina Crook. In 2012 she decided to do a one-month detox from the Internet and wrote a letter each day to a friend about her experiences, which were mailed then posted to a blog. In the end, she wrote a book that married her experience with research, entitled The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. In this inspiring TED Talk Christina tells us her story and gives us tips on how to manage our technology use so that we are more present in our day-to-day lives, our relationships, our communities and more. You too can experience the Joy of Missing Out! 


Dr. BJ Fogg, innovator, behavior scientist and teacher at Stanford University talks about his model for long-term behaviour change in this informative TED Talk. He teaches us that there are essentially two ways to produce long-term change: 1) change your environment, 2) tiny habits. In this talk he walks us through how to create tiny habits that will help us reach those long-term goals we never thought we’d be able to reach for ourselves. 


RETHINKING EXERCISE AS A SOURCE OF IMMEDIATE REWARDS

This short article from the New York Times is one of my favorite ones to send to people who are trying to make exercise a habit. It highlights research by Dr. Michelle Segar, director of the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan, which shows that people who are motivated for exercise by long-term goals like weight loss or health are actually not that likely to do it. So, what does motivate us for exercise? Focusing on immediate rewards that enhance daily life, like increased mood, more energy, stress relief or connection with friends and family. This doesn’t mean you cannot exercise for health it just means you’ll be most effective if you can find some more immediate reward to focus on to make your healthy habit stick!


I looked into the concept of psychological safety in the workplace after reading an article by Charles Duhigg about Google’s quest to find out what makes the perfect team. What they found was that the best predictor of a great team did not have to do with who made it up, but instead the group norms of the team, more specifically something called psychological safety. Defined loosely, psychological safety means that team members listen to one another and show sensitivity to others feelings and needs. Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, Amy Edmondson, has spent many years researching this construct and explains in this video why it is so important for a thriving workplace.


The UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

This amazing organization brings together science and public policy in order to promote solutions to childhood obesity, poor diet, and weight bias. They promote evidence-based solutions and are committed to “holding the food industry, media, government, and others that affect the food environment accountable for their actions”. One key message to take away is that shaming and blaming people about their weight is not helpful, in fact it is interfering with efforts to improve public health! For more information on why this is you can read about Dr. Rebecca Puhl’s research in this New York Times article, Is Fat Stigma Making us Miserable? I would also highly recommend, especially for health care professionals, that you take a look at Dr. Puhl’s presentation, Obesity Stigma: Implications for Patients and Providers.


Want to make a big impact in your career? This non-profit organization, founded by Benjamin Todd and Professor Will MacAskill, is dedicated to helping people have the biggest social impact through their approximately 80,000 working hours. Over one-third of young graduates say they want to have an impact in their career but many people do not know how to best do this and either end up walking away from the idea (and feeling like a “sell out”) or feeling discouraged in a low-impact job. One article I like, Don’t Follow your Passion explains why follow your passion is actually pretty bad advice and talks about a different formula for finding the most satisfying career: Do What’s Valuable. You can also check out this TEDx Talk about it here.  


Professor Sherry Turkle on “Being Owned by Your Phone”

In this episode of Good Life Project MIT Professor Sherry Turkle shares her knowledge on how our cell phones are affecting our relationships with people, including our professors, our friends, our colleagues and even our children. Although technology does a lot for us we have to remember that we are vulnerable to what it does to us. She gives the example of a father who realizes that with his first child bath time was a “sacred moment” and now bath time with his second child is a “good chance to catch up on emails”. She talks about how students miss out on opportunities to bounce ideas off professors because they refuse to go talk to them in person. She makes the suggestion that we accept our vulnerability and make some rules for ourselves about when to use and when not to use our phones in order to ensure we don’t lose the important human qualities found in conversation, empathy, and even solitude. 


Headspace

This website offers multiple platforms from which to learn the science and practice of mindfulness meditation. Check out their blog & podcast at Headspace Daily. Download their mobile app for free to try 10 minutes of mindfulness per day. I recommend this site to many of my friends and clients!


Great talk demystifying stress as the enemy. She presents some interesting research findings suggesting that the negative effects of stress are only found in individuals who think stress is bad for them. Find out how to change the way you see stress in order to decrease the negative effects of stress and find the positive benefits in it.


In this podcast from the Good Life Project Dr. Wendy Suzuki, neuroscientist and NYU professor does some myth busting around the brain. She discusses how to best optimize our brains including her research on the benefits of exercise for the brain. 


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