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Growth Mindset: Avoiding the Comparison Trap : Part 2

By Executive Functioning No Comments

In the 1980s and 1990s, one of the popular TV shows was “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  Audiences watched episodes portraying the lives of entertainers, athletes, and business magnates, who owned the fanciest homes, yachts, cars, and private jets.  The host, Robin Leach, would close each show with his signature phrase, encouraging “champagne wishes and caviar dreams!”  It was a fun show and those who watched could escape their seemingly humdrum existence to envision a life of comfort in faraway exotic locales.

Television shows are one thing, but when fantasy crosses over into everyday thoughts and activities, comparison of ourselves with others can turn sour.  Today, teenagers are bombarded with images on social media, music, movies, and the like, which reminds them of others who are smarter, more attractive, richer, funnier, and better athletes.  But here is reality.  That’s all true!  None of us can keep up with the Kardashians, or the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and that’s perfectly okay.

And for teenagers who struggle simply getting out the door for school on time with completed homework assignments, writing an English essay, or concentrating through an entire Algebra class: seeing the amazing accomplishments of others can create negative attitudes, low self-esteem, and even hopelessness.   In other words, teenagers can become trapped into a fixed mindset that things are the way they are for me, I will never measure up, and nothing I do can improve my lot in life.

As parents, teachers, tutors, coaches, and adult influencers in the lives of teens, we have the responsibility to create better perspectives, and push them away from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.  Many articles have been written on the mindset research of Dweck, mentioned in the last blog.  Here is a cherry-picked list of ways to move from a fixed-mindset, toward a more positive outlook.

  1. Accept your imperfections.  No one is perfect, and it’s unfair to expect this of yourself or others.  Maybe this can lighten the burden for you; you are not exceptionally talented at everything.  No one is.
  2. Acknowledge your gifts and talents.  It’s not necessarily arrogant to understand where you excel.  In fact, this can help you pursue dreams and goals that align with those abilities.
  3. View challenges as “opportunities.”  Many people, especially teenagers, don’t want to look stupid.  For them, losing a soccer game, or earning a low grade on a test, making new friends, or failing to get into the Ivy League school they desperately desired, is too much to bear.  Some people avoid challenges, because they don’t want to fail.  But for those who take on a difficult task and succeed, the thrill of victory will be fantastic!
  4. Stop seeking approval from others.  This is extremely difficult for teenagers who dwell in the chaotic mental space of wanting to be their own individual, but at the same time, never wanting to appear different, or to have those differences pointed out by peers.
  5. Cultivate a sense of purpose in your life.  Actively seek advice from peers and adults you respect and admire.  Have one-on-one discussions, or read books and articles to grow in the wisdom of how to do life well.

Let’s instill these elements of a growth mindset in our teenagers, and in ourselves too, parents.  Each of these principles are philosophical underpinnings of Executive Function coaching sessions.  We want students to focus upon their own situation and avoid the noise and distraction of the world around them that makes them feel like they aren’t enough.  It takes time to build self-confidence and understanding of one’s place in this world, and can be every bit as demanding for older adults as it is for teenagers who have yet to make their mark.

And for those of you who love champagne and caviar, go for it.  I will happily settle for a bacon cheeseburger and a root beer!

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Growth Mindset and Executive Function: Part 1

By Executive Functioning No Comments

The History Channel has produced an enlightening series called, “The Food that Built America.”  It’s about the generations of visionaries and entrepreneurs such as James Kraft, Milton Hershey, Nathan Handwerker, the Swanson family, and others, who revolutionized food in America.  They created new foods, better ways to store it, distribute it, and make it available to all.  The series highlights foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, potato chips, ice cream, candy, cookies and more.  We tend to forget that someone had to invent and innovate, and that there were times when these fantastic foods were only available to the rich.  These food heroes were not held back by obstacles, criticism, or seemingly impossible odds.  Rather, they saw opportunities, and brilliantly executed plans to achieve them, which resulted in great wealth for them, and cheaper, great-tasting food for the rest of us.  They were willing to learn new things, take risks, learn from the successes and failures of others, and display unending determination in the face of opposition.  They had what we call today, a “growth mindset.”

In the 1980s, Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, wrote, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  She discovered through decades of research that the way people view themselves has a profound impact on how they lead their lives.  Some people have a fixed mindset, and others have a growth mindset.  According to Dweck, those with a fixed mindset:

  • Avoid challenges
  • Give up easily
  • See effort as a waste of time
  • Ignore constructive criticism
  • Feel threatened by the success of others.

But those with a growth mindset:

  • Accept challenges
  • Are resolute in the face of setbacks
  • See effort as the path to expertise
  • Learn from constructive criticism
  • Derive inspiration and knowledge from the successes of others

A fixed mindset believes that one’s intelligence, creative ability, social acumen, and other gifts and talents are static, and cannot be altered or improved.  A person with a fixed mindset will avoid risk and difficult challenges in order to prevent failure or expose any shortcomings.  While a person with a growth mindset embraces challenges, and sees them as launchpads for increased success, as they seek to get smarter and more skilled, as they chase their dreams and find purpose in life.

In recent years, neuro-science researchers have validated Dweck’s findings, by discovering that the brain is more malleable than thought in the past.  They call it brain “plasticity.”  Brains can physiologically change and develop as we get older.  Neurons in the brain that are not used are “pruned,” basically become dormant and disappear, while new neural pathways can be grown.

Here is why these findings are crucial to understand as it relates to parents and kids.  Students who have struggled academically in certain subject areas, are disorganized, forgetful, lack social awareness, or been afraid to try hard things, can be guided to think differently.  Higher levels of achievement will result, as well as a sense of accomplishment, and overall happiness in life.  This isn’t some sort of “power of positive thinking,” pop psychology, but scientifically-based brain research.

At Dayspring, our Executive Function coaches seek to instill a growth mindset into students.  Research substantiates that teenagers, and adults too, can be inspired to recognize their gifts, take risks, and triumph, even in areas where they have been unsuccessful in the past.  And when small victories are strung together, they become big victories, creating positive momentum for individuals that will help them realize their full potential.  And hopefully, by the end of their life, reflect on what a remarkable journey it has been.  And who knows, maybe they will be the next big food mogul, and forge an even better hot dog!

How Counseling Can Help You Reach Your Goals in the New Year

By General No Comments

If you struggle to set goals, let alone reach them, you are definitely not alone. In fact, it is thought that roughly 92% of the population has found it hard to stick to goals. This constant cycle of trying to set beneficial life or health goals, but never quite reaching them, can ultimately lead to depression.

That’s because reaching goals is empowering and helps us feel we are in charge of our life. When we don’t reach goals, we feel powerless and even hopeless that our lives can change for the better!

How Counseling Can Help

Just as you must follow a recipe to the proverbial “T” to end up with something edible, there is a formula that must be followed to the “T” to set reachable goals. This formula is often used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help individuals set and reach goals that will help them change behaviors and better their lives.

Goal setting has actually been shown to be a useful tool for those suffering from depression according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study found that individuals suffering from depression had more trouble setting goals and were far less likely to believe they could reach them.

The study found that those who were depressed had more difficulties setting goals and they were also less likely to believe they would achieve those goals. The participants also tended to set avoidance goals rather than approach goals.

An avoidance goal is one you set to avoid a negative outcome. “I want to lose weight so I don’t develop type 2 diabetes.” An approach goal, on the other hand, is one that you set to ensure a positive outcome. “I want to lose weight to have more energy!”

The study shows that counseling can help people with depression set and achieve realistic and achievable goals as well as help them stay on track mentally in pursuit of that goal.

The goal-setting formula used by most CBT therapists is as follows:

  • Identify your goal.
  • Choose a starting point.
  • Identify the steps required to achieve the goal.
  • Take that first step and get started.

A therapist can help you with each one of these steps. From ensuring you select realistic goals that are approach goals, to helping you identify where you are in relation to your goal, breaking down the goal into smaller, actionable steps, and helping you take that very first one, a counselor or coach will be in your corner, helping you every step of the way.

Make 2021 the year you reach those goals that will help you live your best life. If you’d like some help getting there, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

What is Positive Parenting?

By Parenting No Comments

“Because I said so!!”

How many times did your parents say this phrase to you? How often were you spanked as a child? How much yelling was there in your house growing up?

It’s safe to say that parenting styles have changed over the years. While spanking may have been deemed okay years ago, most parents agree now that hitting a child is not okay, for any reason. Shame and yelling are also, thankfully, out of fashion.

Many of today’s parents are trying to use positive parenting techniques instead.

What is Positive Parenting?

Positive parenting refers to a parenting style that relies on warmth, nurturing, and mindfulness. This type of parenting reinforces good behavior and avoids using harsh forms of discipline.

Positive parenting has been shown to facilitate numerous favorable outcomes. It has been linked to better grades in school, better behavior, more positive self-concepts, less substance abuse, and better overall mental health.

Strategies for Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting has three main components:

1. Regulate Your Own Emotions

How often have you had a bad day at work and yelled at your kids when you got home? It is very common for parents, either consciously or unconsciously, to take their bad emotions out on their children.

To parent positively means you have got to get a hold of your own emotions so you only interact with your child in a kind, loving, and honest manner.

2. Focus on Strengthening the Parent-Child Connection

It can be easier said than done, but each interaction with your child must strengthen the connection between you both. When a parent-child connection is strong, the child will feel safe and be able to trust.

3. Love Your Child Unconditionally

Many punishment techniques throughout the years rely on a parent “withdrawing” their love. This conditional love can cause great emotional and psychological harm to your child. Instead, focus on being a coach and mentor to your child, offering them loving guidance and reassurance to help them manage their emotions and behaviors.

It can also be very helpful to get some help from a family therapist who can help guide you in becoming the loving and compassionate parent you want to be.

If you would like to explore counseling options, please be in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

Tips to Manage Anger Around Your Family During the Holidays

By Anger, Family Therapy No Comments

For many of us, spending time with family can be a grab bag of emotions. While you may feel love and familiarity, there’s also decades-long dynamics between you and your family members that may not be the most healthy. Your family might treat you like the teenager they remember, and you might revert to that role when you’re around your family without even realizing it.

There could be many things that make spending time with family a challenge. Old family conflicts, harbored resentments, and spoken or unspoken disagreements can make you dread seeing them again. If you have trouble managing your anger when you’re around your family, read on for some tips on how to keep your cool.

Define How You Experience Anger

People experience anger differently. Some might get more aggressive, some might withdraw, and some internalize the anger. By being aware of how you experience anger, you can better recognize when that emotion is starting to develop inside you so you can take control of how you respond.

Rehearse Responses

It’s very common for family to ask intrusive or inappropriate questions. You might have a busybody aunt who always asks about your relationships, or maybe your sister is constantly bugging you about starting a family. Come prepared with rehearsed responses so you won’t be caught off guard.

Set Boundaries

It’s important to set boundaries with family. If a family member is aggressive or rude to you, or is always making you the butt of their jokes, your silence acts as approval of their behavior. Because you don’t protest, they think what they’re saying or doing is fine with you. Furthermore, pretending their bad behavior is acceptable only gives them more room to continue the bad behavior, or to get worse. Set boundaries with family and let them know when things they’re saying or doing is not okay with you.

Cut the Visit Short

Sometimes the best option to keep the family peace (and your sanity) is to spend less time. If your family tends to have snacks or drinks before dinner, show up just in time to join the family for dinner at the table. You can also opt to skip dessert or coffee and leave a bit early.

Family relationships are complex and deep-rooted, and family are often the ones who know best how to push your buttons. While managing your anger can be challenging, learning to maintain control over your emotions is a healthy act of self-love. It will not only keep you sane, but it will keep your family relationships unharmed and intact.

If you’re having difficulty navigating complicated family relationships, a licensed therapist can help. Give my office a call today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks! Tips for Starting a Later-In-Life Hobby

By Aging No Comments

Most of us, when we were growing up, had hobbies. Some of us collected stamps or coins, others rode horses, and still others liked to draw or bake. But then we grew up and our world became filled with work and family responsibilities, and we had little time to do the things we once loved.

And that’s too bad, because hobbies are essentially a way for us to play as adult. We don’t pursue needlepoint to become famous or to make millions of dollars (if only!), we partake in hobbies for the pure pleasurethey bring to us.

Happiness isn’t just nice to feel, happiness actually makes us healthier and live longer! A study found that older people who are happy have a 35% lower risk of dying over a five-year period than unhappy people. The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But I’m Too Old to Pick Up a Hobby

Rubbish.

Did you know that Winston Churchill didn’t start painting until he was in his middle years? He absolutely fell in love with it. In a small book called Painting as a Pastime, he wrote:

“… There is no subject on which I feel more humble or yet at the same time more natural. I do not presume to explain how to paint, but only how to get enjoyment.” [and then later in the book] “We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box…”

Whether it’s painting, ceramics, photography, Italian cooking, writing poetry, or scrapbooking – or something else entirely – pick something you’ve always wanted to do and just try it.

Getting Started

Okay, let’s set you out on your new journey of growth, discovery, and joy! Here are some steps you can take to get started.

1. Brainstorm – If you aren’t exactly sure what kind of hobby you would enjoy, spend some time making a list of things you have enjoyed in the past. Maybe you like music or you’ve always liked being outdoors.

2. Research – To narrow your list, do some research on things like cost and time needed for these hobbies. This is good to know before you dive in.

3. Don’t listen to others – Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re foolish for wanting to learn to Salsa dance or kayak “at your age.” These people are to be pitied, not listened to.

4. Be honest with yourself – Maybe you’ll love the hobby you choose and maybe you’ll want to try something else. The idea here is to play and explore yourself.

It is never to old to begin a new journey. I wish you an exciting one!

Could Your Family Benefit from Family Counseling?

By General, Parenting No Comments

Does your family love and support one another unconditionally? Do you have fun together? Do you find talking with your spouse and children is easy and effective?

If you had to really pause and think about your answers to these questions, there’s a chance your family may not be as cohesive as you once thought or hoped. And that’s okay, not every family acts like something out of a 1950s television sitcom. Most have their own fair share of problems.

If you’ve never considered working with a therapist before, here are some benefits of family therapy:

Improved Communication

There aren’t many families out there that have flawless communication skills. It’s actually far more common for family members to feel that they can’t open up to one another. This of course leads to a disconnect between spouses or parents and children.

A family therapist can facilitate effective and respectful communication between your family members.

You’ll Understand Your Kids Better

Do you find yourself going slightly insane in an attempt to understand why your one child lies so much? Are you scratching your head as to why your other child is constantly hitting your first child?

We all think because our kids are made from our DNA that we’ll have some magical insights into why they do what they do. Nope. The truth is, most parents are in a constant state of stupefaction over their child’s behavior.

Family therapy will help your child feel safe enough to express their thoughts and feelings, giving you many A-ha moments.

Help Your Kids with Self-Esteem Issues

Healthy self-esteem is the foundation for a successful life. But unfortunately, many kids grow up feeling less than confident or good about themselves. A child with self-esteem issues may be the product of a parent with self-esteem issues.

The great news is, a family therapist can help both children and their parents build up their self-esteem to become happier individuals and, a happier family.

Help You Deal with Grief

Whether it’s a divorce or the loss of a loved one, most families are ill-equipped to handle loss, especially sudden loss. A family therapist can guide each one of your family members through the stages of grief so they can heal.

If you’re interested in exploring treatment options, please get I touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

Pets Are Better Than Medication

By General No Comments

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.”

– Thom Jones

For many of us, our home is just a house unless there is something with four legs and a tail sharing the space with us. Our pets are not only cuddly and cute, they give us unconditional love.

But it turns out our pets actually offer us more than “just” unconditional love; they seem to also have the ability to help our physical and mental well-being.

Research has found that the bond we share with our animals can do everything from improve our cardiovascular health to lower our cholesterol and decrease our blood pressure.

Beyond these physical health benefits, our animal companions can help our mental and emotional life as well. Here are some ways your pet is better than medication.

Our Pets Teach Us Mindfulness

Have you ever just watched your dog or cat find a swath of sun as it streams into your house in the afternoon? They seem to luxuriate in the warmth and energy of the sun in those moments. Nothing else matters to them but enjoying the feeling of the sun on their body.

Our pets can teach us how to be more mindful and enjoy every moment of our life if we let them. Studies have shown that mindful meditation, which simply means to be fully in the present moment, helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

Let your pets be an example and try and spend more time just “being” instead of “doing” so much.

Pets Relieve Stress

Let’s face it, each of us faces our fair share of stress in life. But research has shown that our dogs and cats act as de-stressors. This is why a growing number of companies such as Atlantic Health System, Mars Inc., Amazon, and Etsy, to name a few, are allowing employees to bring their dog to work.

College students are a segment of the population that also feels a lot of stress. When the University of British Columbia brought therapy dogs on campus, allowing a group of 246 students to pet and cuddle them, the students reported their stress levels decreased significantly after the interaction.

Pets Offer Empathy

There are numerous accounts of war veterans who, when they experience pain and agitation, are comforted by their service dog who will run into the room, somehow sensing their need for empathy.

Recent findings from the University of Vienna suggest that dogs can sense emotions and even differentiate between good and bad ones. There are numerous reports of cats living in nursing homes, sensing when someone is about to pass and going to lie on their bed.

The long and short of it is, when we are feeling tired, scared, sad and alone, our pets are there to remind us that we are not alone and that they love us very much. For those of you who have pets, hold them tight and show them your appreciation. For those of you that don’t have pets, it may be time to take a trip to the local shelter.

 

How to Kick the Cravings and Retrain Your Tastebuds for a Healthier Diet

By Nutrition No Comments

Do you tend to opt for a donut and vanilla latte in the morning? Does your lunch typically include a soda? Do you always have dessert with dinner and maybe even a sweet treat before bed?

Do you also find that the more sugary foods you eat, the more you crave them and the hungrier you feel?  It is indeed a vicious cycle!

The good news is, there are actual ways you can STOP the cravings for sweets and junk food and retrain your tastebuds to want healthy foods. Use the following tips to help you get healthy once and for all!

Avoid Refined Carbohydrates

When we eat foods high in simple carbohydrates like pasta and bread, it causes a blood sugar spike, which leads to more sugar cravings. In order to get a handle on your tastebuds and overall health, you really need to cut out refined carbs and replace them with complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and brown rice.

Eat More Protein

Research has uncovered an interesting fact: your body will force you to eat in order to get enough protein! That’s why when you eat a lot of carbs you still feel really hungry and keep eating. It’s because your body NEEDS way more protein to be healthy than you are giving it. Eat more quality protein from meats, eggs, and dairy. You’ll find that a lot of your cravings will quickly subside and you’ll feel fuller longer.

Eat More Healthy Fats

Healthy fats found in foods like fatty fish, eggs, nuts, and avocados are important for your overall health. And, like protein, they will help to satiate you. Fat is also important for brain health. Many mood disorders, like depression, stem from a lack of healthy fats in the diet. When we feel depressed or anxious, we tend to reach for unhealthy comfort foods laden with trans fats and refined sugars. So be sure to eat plenty of healthy fats.

Stay Hydrated

We think of hydration as getting enough water in the diet. But hydration is about ensuring we have a proper balance of electrolytes. Just as our body will crave all kinds of foods in an effort to get enough protein, it will also try to get you to eat to get enough salt and other important electrolytes like calcium and potassium. Try using sea salt instead of refined table salt, and/or opt to take an electrolyte supplement every day.

When you know WHY your body is craving certain foods – because it is trying to get you to eat what it REALLY needs – then you can take the appropriate steps to stop the cravings and get healthy once and for all!

 

SOURCES:

 

4 Subtle Exercises to Calm Anxiety in Public

By Anxiety No Comments

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you are one of them, you know how difficult your life can feel most days.

When anxiety strikes, the world around us can become a sort of funhouse, only not that much fun. It’s important to be able to self-soothe in these instances. But how can you calm an anxiety attack subtly when you’re out in public?

 

Breath Work

As soon as you feel the anxiety coming on, focus intently on your breathing and nothing else. Begin to take slow… deep breaths. Inhale for a slow count of three… hold for a count of three… and exhale for a count of three. Slow deep breaths send a signal to our body that we are not under attack and everything is okay.

 

Talk to Yourself

In your mind, remind yourself that you are having an experience but that you are NOT that experience. While you feel that something is wrong, remind yourself that you are actually safe and all is well.

 

Visualize

Think of something that calms you. This may be your childhood bedroom or your grandparent’s home. It could be your favorite beach or your own bathtub. Simply put yourself IN that space. Use your full imagination to feel yourself there and allow the calm to settle over you.

 

Practice Listening Meditation

If you’ve never tried listening meditation, I highly recommend it for everyone. But it can be especially beneficial when you are feeling anxious, and here’s why. Listening requires you to stop thinking. Try it now. Stop reading and instead listen to all of the ambient sounds there in the room with you, outside the door and window.

What do you hear?

Let your sense of hearing grow and grow, picking up more subtle sounds. The buzz of the lights overhead… the noise of the ice maker… a bee at the window… your dog’s collar down the hall…

It’s actually a very fun exercise to do. And in order to REALLY GIVE SOUND YOUR FULL ATTENTION, you can’t think while listening. It’s a bit like trying to juggle while standing on your hands, it simply cannot be done.

Much of our anxiety comes from our anxious thoughts. It’s our reptilian brain trying to keep us alive by alerting us to all of the dangers around us. But when we meditate, this mind chatter goes away.

 

When an anxiety attack comes on, life can feel unbearable. The next time this happens to you in public, try one or more of these techniques.

And if you’d like to speak with someone about your anxiety, please get in touch. I’d be happy to explore treatment options.