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children

Danit's Picks

Danit's Picks

 
 

Understanding the science of willpower

January is a time during which people reflect on the past and plan for the future. We ambitiously establish goals and take on new challenges. We feel more motivated than ever and look forward to a fresh start. However, a few months in motivation often begins to wane and our resolutions are tested. Understanding the psychology of willpower (hint: it’s a muscle!) can help shed light on this process so that we can become more effective. Check out the APA’s publication on willpower here: What you need to know about willpower.


TALKING TO YOUR TEEN ABOUT MARIJUANA

The upcoming legalization of marijuana has important implications for all Canadians, yet it raises a particularly important question for parents— how do you talk to your teen about marijuana? Having an honest conversation is the key to keeping communication channels open and helping your teen understand and navigate important choices.  

Drug Free Kids Canada offers a user-friendly step-by-step resource for starting the conversation. The PDF guide can be found here: Cannabis Talk Kit Know How to Talk with Your Teen.


HANDLING GRIEF IN THE CLASSROOM AND BEYOND

Like many events of a similar nature, the Parkland shooting brings to the forefront a painful reality: We cannot easily protect our children and loved ones from traumatic events or loss. Further, we are also faced with the question of how to handle grief in the aftermath. Teachers and adults in closest proximity to children often lack the time, resources, and training to guide children through processing emotions around such events.

To address this need, the Coalition to Support Grieving Students offers online resources. These include helpful information, advice, and other tools useful for assisting adults in leading conversations and supporting affected children.  The website includes modules, guides, videos, and resources shedding light on how to help youth process grief after crisis or loss.


CHECKING IN WITH YOUR SHENPA

I first learned about Shenpa in Pema Chödrön’s book “Getting unstuck”.  It is a Tibetan word that refers to our tendency to get “hooked” by certain thoughts and emotions, and our immediate urge to react or “scratch the itch”. By giving in to this temptation, we teach ourselves that we absolutely must react to our Shenpa. Often, this leads to reacting with behaviours that are harmful in the long term. We also forego the opportunity to observe the Shenpa and experience our emotions. Refraining from biting the hook is an important part of meditation—it paves the way towards observing, understanding, and being in charge of our experiences and actions. 

Read more about Shenpa: Shenpa and getting hooked

Getting Unstuck by Pema Chödrön (book)

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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.

Tobey's Picks

Tobey's Picks

 
 

FOUR THINGS TO AVOID WHEN COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR PARTNER

Many of us have been told that “communication is key” in a romantic relationship. But what does that really mean? How do we learn to communicate effectively, and avoid hurting each other in the process? The Gottman Institute has done years of research examining how couples communicate. They have highlighted four particularly negative communication styles, leading to less connection and more painful interactions. These are called the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, which refer to: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. Check out this detailed blog post from the Gottman Institute that helps to clarify what each of these factors look like, so that you and your partner can better communicate on issues big and small!


Food Psych Podcast

There are so many great podcasts to listen to, but some have that special combination of being fascinating, helpful and empowering. Food Psych is a weekly podcast hosted by intuitive eating dietitian Christy Harrison. Each week. Christy interviews various guests on their relationship with food, their body, how diet culture has shaped their view of themselves, and how they have broken free of their unhealthy relationships with food and their bodies to live a more fulfilling life. She digs deep into the ways in which diet culture has both shaped our understanding of how to eat and sold us the false notion that diets are the answer to our struggles. She strongly promotes body acceptance, and backs it up with good data that shows that health is not about size or weight. Christy also has tons of resources on her website, and courses that help get into the particularly challenging parts of intuitive eating and body acceptance. Check it out and see what you think!


RECOGNIZING EATING DISORDERS IN TIME TO HELP

Disordered eating might be more common than we think, but that doesn’t mean it’s something to overlook. The attached article emphasizes that disordered eating may look like a normal range of eating, making it easy for family and friends to miss important cues that suggest a loved one is struggling. However, missing these cues may delay diagnosis, leading to lost opportunities for effective treatments before the disorder takes over more space in their lives. Check out this article for some tips on what to look for and how to be helpful: Recognizing Eating Disorders in Time to Help.


EATING DISORDER RECOVERY

So much of what we see online in relation to eating disorders involves visuals of what certain eating disorders look like (i.e. someone with a very low weight suffering from anorexia). These images highlight the dangers of these disorders (while only capturing a fraction what it looks like to suffer from an eating disorder), but do little to help individuals already suffering from these difficulties. An eating disorder treatment center in Denver, Colorado has begun a campaign to focus more directly on recovery, as opposed to images connected with the active stages of the disorder. This campaign involves writing letters about an individual’s personal recovery journey, demonstrating for those still suffering that recovery is possible! It also helps shed light on the genuine struggle and complexity of overcoming an eating disorder, but the ultimate freedom that comes with recovery. Check out the campaign here: myrecoveryletter.com.


SELF-COMPASSION – CONCRETE TOOLS TO SHOW YOU HOW!

More and more, I’m noticing that there are certain really important ideas discussed online so regularly that they are starting to simply be seen as “buzz words”. For instance, we often see the terms ‘self-care’, ‘self-compassion’, ‘mindfulness’, etc. used in ways that make it difficult for someone to understand what the terms mean and how to best incorporate them into their lives. These terms represent big ideas and the more instruction we can receive on these topics, the more likely we are to make subtle, but meaningful changes in ourselves. The following article breaks down the main components of self-compassion therapy, and then provides many concrete tools and exercises to begin practicing this new way of relating to yourself: 16 Compassion Focused Therapy Training Exercises and Worksheets.


THE HAPPINESS TRAP

Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve been recommending the same book to clients…over, and over. One might believe that it’s because it’s the first book that comes to mind, or because I’m in the habit of reading only a few books a year (which all might be true!), but the more accurate reason is that I’ve realized that this book seems to be relevant for so many individuals that I work with. The book I’m referring to is called “The Happiness Trap”, by Russ Harris. It is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and is an easy to digest, relatable, and research supported book that helps individuals better notice and distance from their unhelpful thought patterns, while moving towards actions that align with their values. Plus, it has countless examples and exercises that you can (and ideally will!) use to practice these very helpful tools. The first chapter is available for free online, so check it out and see if you think it could help direct you towards a more helpful and meaningful way of thinking and acting: The Happiness Trap - Introduction and Chapter One.


THE FIVE THIEVES OF HAPPINESS: HOW OUR MINDSET CAN BE OUR MAIN OBSTACLE

We have all fallen victim to the never-ending chase for happiness, the ongoing desire to attain a steady level of contentment and joy that so often feels just outside of our grip. Interestingly, the more one searches for happiness outside of themselves, the more steep the slope may seem. This is largely due to the fact that happiness is a feeling, which means it’s an internal state that comes from within! The more we are searching for happiness “out there” the less we’re giving ourselves a chance to acknowledge what we can do within ourselves to move closer towards those positive feelings. The following article, a brief summary of the book by the same name by John Izzo, highlights the five ways that our own mindset gets in the way of our happiness: Some tips for banishing the five thieves of happiness.


HOW TO BUILD RESILIENCE IN KIDS

As many people have read or heard, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, lost her husband suddenly two years ago. She has spoken openly about the grief that comes with loss, and the different coping skills that she and her children have found helpful in moving through this grief. In the article below, Sheryl talks about how to build resilience in children, even when they have experienced such a tremendous loss. Her writing expands on research by Dr. Adam Grant, a professor who researches resilience during adversity, and describes many key elements that can help contribute to children’s overall resilience no matter what obstacles lie in their path - Sheryl Sandberg: How to Build Resilient Kids, Even After a Loss.


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?