Tuesday Tip: Kindness Matters

The ripple effect of kindness is more powerful than many might realize. I can’t emphasize enough how much kindness makes a difference. In fact, it has been the catalyst that has saved lives. The clients I have had the honor of working with as they processed he excruciating pain and anguish which leads someone to contemplate suicide, often surprised me by the stories that they would share of the simple acts they witnessed {many times these events did not even that happened to them} that would help them to hold on amongst the pain and restore hope. You don’t know the positive impact that you can make simply by moving over to give them a seat on the bus or at lunch to make room for someone else, the high five to a stranger in the hallway, the heartfelt smile that allowed someone in pain to realize their heart was still beating. Reaching out with kindness is something everyone and anyone can do and I promise makes a difference. The Boy Scouts of America has a slogan, “Do a good turn daily.” This is a tip that would be a great goal for all of us. So, today’s Tuesday Tip: Do an act of kindness daily: the ripple effect is beyond powerful.

Tuesday Tip: The Importance of Distinguishing Between Shame and Guilt.

There are few words and feelings that make such a profound difference as the difference between these two five-letter words: Shame and Guilt. While you might think they are synonyms, you will be surprised to know that psychologically speaking, they are more distinct than you might think and understanding their differences can be life altering.

So, what’s the difference? According to renowned researcher/storyteller, Brené Brown, PhD, LCSW, the difference is huge. Brown has been researching shame for over ten years and her TED talks have garnered over 10 million views. She defines shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Shame focuses on yourself: “I am a bad person… I am stupid…I am a failure.”

She defines guilt on the other hand as “holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” She view guilt as adaptive and helpful and focuses instead on the behavior: “This behavior is bad…that was a really stupid thing to do…that outcome was a failure.”

According to Brown, “Shame [is] highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, violence, bullying and aggression. Guilt? Inversely correlated with those.” What does that mean? That means the ability to change the way in which you talk to yourself (guilt vs. shame) or your internal dialogue can dramatically change the outcome.

Guilt serves as a motivating factor to change whereas shame becomes the catalyst to the downward spiral of self loathing that has been correlated with depression and addiction. For example, I could do really poorly on a test and say to myself: “Dang it. That was a mistake. I should have studied differently.” Now, I still feel bad and the event didn’t change-I still did poorly, but I am motivated to fix that mistake.

Check out the difference with shame: “Dang it. I am such a loser. I am so stupid. I don’t know why I bothered to think that I would ever be good at taking a test.” Shame cuts at your self identity and does not inspire you to move forward but rather stay in a downward spiral of negative thoughts.
The ability to change the self-talk — and believe it — can dramatically change the outcome.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: examine your internal dialogue. Is it more inline with shame or guilt? When you or someone you love make a mistake, allow your feelings of guilt to inspire a course correction. As I lovingly repeat to my kids on a daily basis: “Peirce’s make mistakes and Peirce’s fix mistakes.” They might have the same number of letters but feeling shame and guilt are extremely different and distinguishing between them is an absolute game changer.

Tuesday Tip: Why Honesty is the Number One Thing You Want To Teach Your Children

This answer comes down to six simple words: You cannot change anything without it.

No one is perfect in this life and mistakes are going to happen. What you need to teach your child is not simply how to avoid mistakes but instead how to fix mistakes–what to do if and when you make a mistake.

Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor and researcher at Stanford University, is known for her research on mindsets-or the ways in which we view the world. She discovered that there were two distinct mindsets–a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.

According to Dr. Dweck, “[i]f parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

Developing a growth mindset is really key in being able to develop what Dr. Angela Duckworth found to be the single greatest factor of success. She conducted research at West Point Military academy, the National Spelling Bee and even a sales team at a professional company to determine who is successful and why. She found that a term which she called ‘grit’ was the single most defining factor in being successful. She defined grit as passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina and sticking to your future for an extensive period of time.

Wondering where your grit level is? For those of you who are curious, below are two links for a short grit scale questionnaire developed by Dr. Duckworth – [The first one is an 8 question for children to access where they are on a grit scale and the second is a 12 question for adults.]

https://www.dropbox.com/s/rn5wo3y0iis0qtf/8-item%20Grit%20Scale_Child%20Adapted%20Version_4.pdf?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/2pzjz1v0dadmr8r/12-item%20Grit%20Scale.pdf?dl=0


Having a growth mindset of knowing that your talents and abilities will get stronger through your effort and persistence is the motivating factor for developing grit, and thereby being successful. However, the key to both developing a growth mindset and developing grit is really honesty. Being honest with your thoughts and feelings is the first step to being able to recognize where you are and then being able to improve. Cultivate and teach your children the importance of honesty. It is the foundation of trust, success and change.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: When a child (or anyone really) comes to you about a mistake that they have made, instead of giving into the myriad of emotions that it evokes, take a breath and say the words: Thank you for being honest. This reinforces that you value trust and honesty and reminds both of you that this is the first step in being able to fix any and all mistakes. Honesty- you cannot change anything without it.

Making Things ‘Slightly Smaller’: A Functional Tip When You are Feeling Overwhelmed

Who hasn’t felt the feeling of being overwhelmed? You know that feeling when things were already pretty stressful and then one more thing happens and threatens to capsize the whole boat. When you are in the midst of the storm it can be difficult to be able to come up with a plan that will deal with the storm and rightly so. When your brain is flooded, it no longer processes things the same way as many functions are ‘offline’ not allowing you to process thoughts as you usually would. So, when you are feeling overwhelmed there is a tip that will help jumpstart your mind into staying engaged and being able to assist in coming up with a plan to address your state of mind. It’s called “Slightly Smaller”.

After taking a deep breath, you can tell your brain to assign your current state into a number. For instance, if I am really stressed out I might assign myself an 8. Instead of trying to solve and figure out the whole amount of stressful 8, I would make it slightly smaller by subtracting it by 1. Then, I would ask my mind, “What would make it a 7?” This allows your mind to be able to stay engaged and come up with a plan to address your stress in a smaller, more manageable portion. You don’t need to try and solve everything at the moment. Storms will come and go as they do, but the ‘Slightly Smaller’ tip will allow you to be able to use your mind to be able to stay in and process, problem solve and survive the state of feeling overwhelmed. Don’t let the simpleness of the tip fool you–try this the next time you recognize feeling overwhelmed and see for yourself if your mind doesn’t play a more active role in being able to get your ship to the shore. Happy Sailing!

Looking for more ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed? Check out:

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/28/top-9-proven-strategies-to-manage-stress-including-the-science-behind-how-they-work/

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/06/9-proven-strategies-to-change-your-thoughts-and-change-your-world/

Tuesday Tip: The Power of a Positive Memory

There is a lot of energy focused on negative memories, and for good reasons. For one, everyone experiences them. From a evolutionary stand point, we are wired to remember the things that bring us pain. This is our ancient, highly effective warning system that is designed to keep us safe. By remembering the things that have caused us trouble, we’re more likely to avoid them and keep ourselves alive. 

In fact, researchers have discovered people have a tendency to attach a much higher weight, {or valence in psychological lingo}, to negative things rather than to good. One of my favorite research studies was done way back in 1984 by two professors (Dr. Daniel Kahneman and Dr. Amos Tversky) and involved the participants hypothetically winning or losing money. Basically, what they found out was that you are more upset about losing $50, than you are happy about gaining $50. Something viewed as negative made a greater impact.

While negative events may hold more weight and make a greater impact,
there are two things something that researchers have discovered about the human brain that is absolutely incredible. First, researchers also have found that many good events can actually overcome the psychological effects of a bad one. According to Dr. Roy Baumeister, the psychological effects stemming from a bad event can be negated with a ratio of 5 positive events to one negative event.

Second, the research found that by savouring a positive memory, there was a kind of ‘re-experiencing’ of the event contained in the memory. Senses were re-engaged and the emotions associated with the memory were re-experienced. You can trigger your brain to think about an event and your brain will recreate the exact feelings surrounding that event.


In a new study just recently published in January of this year, researchers out of the University of Cambridge found that recalling specific positive memories and happy life experiences fortified resilience and reduced the risk of depression.

While our hard wiring makes it impossible to avoid the the greater impact of negative events, researchers have now discovered that positive memories can make a definite effect on us. Positive memories can increase positive emotions and have the capacity to reduce anxiety by reducing the way we respond to threat. It also can ease the symptoms of depression and stress as evidenced in cortisol levels. It allows us to see the world through a more optimistic and happier filter.

An example of a picture off of my fridge of a fun memory that always makes me smile.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: Surround yourself with positive memories. Whether it is pictures of a specific family event that make you laugh or a playlist that reminds you of the good old times or the scent of a freshly washed blanket that reminds you of home–create an environment that allows you to remember and reexperience the positive memories in your life. Positive moments can make more of a difference than you know.


Tuesday Tip: Just Do It! Actions Can Change Your Feelings

Many times we get trapped in a vicious cycle- we wait until we feel like doing something. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “But I don’t feel like practicing the piano right now!” or “I didn’t feel like exercising today so I didn’t.” The truth is that we can dictate our feelings. You do not need to wait or spend the energy to pysch yourself into feeling a certain way. Your actions can change your feelings.

Take exercise for example. I am not one that looks forward to working out even though I have had an established routine for quite some time. I am not going to ever feel like exercising. However, there is a truth about how are minds work that helps me to to start exercising. I know that my feelings can change with actions. I know that chemicals including seratonin (which changes your mood) and endorphins (also commonly known as the body’s natural pain killers) are released during exercise so 5-10 minutes into my workout, I will feel differently. I can remember that previous times that I have not wanted to exercise but still completed the workout, I felt better after I have worked out. The action of working out will help me overcome my not feeling like doing it. When you can correlate your actions as a way to be on the way to getting the results that you want, your motivation will automatically increase.

Today’s Tuesday Tip: Just Do it. Do an action even when your feelings don’t match. Just take a step in the direction that you want to go regardless of your feelings. Make that call you have been avoiding. Set up the appointment you have been dreading. Start practicing that piano. Just start to exercise. You will find that you can change and control your feelings rather than have them dictate you. When you realize that your feelings do not define you and that your actions can change those feelings, you will be able to achieve anything you want–Those small successes will take you to the big results that you are looking for.

7 Proven Tips To Handle Conflict

If there are no ups and downs in your life, it means you are dead. The truth is that no matter what, all relationships–whether they are with our family, coworkers, friends or spouses–will and should experience conflict simply as a fact of life. Resolving conflict is a necessary skill set for everyone. Here are some tips to help you handle conflict in your life.

Tip #1: Realize that Conflict is Normal and Necessary. In fact, Dr. John Gottman, PhD, who has been researching relationships for over 40 years, has found that it is not the presence of conflict that is damaging but the way in which conflict is handled. He found that the “Magic Ratio”: is 5-1. That means that for every negative interaction, happy couples will have 5 positive ones.

Tip #2: Take a Deep Breath. When a person’s heart rate reaches 100 beats per minute, they are unable to hear anything the other person says. By simply just breathing you allow necessary oxygen to slow down the amygdala which in turn “jump starts’ the prefrontal cortex or the side of your brain that comes up with the plans and problem solving and allow you to make more rational decisions.

Tip #3: Face each other when talking. Researchers found that simply maintaining eye contact made the biggest impact from changing a negative interaction to a positive one. Nonverbal behavior is the primary mode in which emotion is communicated. Facial expression, eye gaze, tone of voice, bodily motion, and the timing of responses are fundamental to emotional messages.

Tip #4: Mentally Recite Positive Attributes. All of us have a natural tendency to overemphasize the negative and underappreciate the positive. It is far easier to be critical than positive so amidst conflict, it can be helpful to remember positive attributes, characteristics or experiences that can balance and counter the at times overwhelming flood of negative emotions. For instance, upon finding a spouse’s is late, you can remember that they work hard to provide, are really good at playing games with the kids, picking shows to binge watch on Netflix or another experience that has made you smile in the past. Being grateful for the positive allows you to address conflict in a more realistic approach to the issue at hand instead of making mountains out of mole hills.

Tip #5: Use a Softened Start Up Approach. Gottman’s research has found that 96% of the time, the way a discussion begins can predict the way it will end. When one person begins the discussion with a harsh startup- being negative, accusatory or using contempt–the discussion is basically doomed to fail. On the other hand, when a person begins a discussion using a softened startup, the discussion will most likely end on the same positive tone. For Example:

Harsh Start Up :”You never have time for me!”

Softened Start Up: “I have been missing you lately.”

Tip #6: Limit criticizing and condemning language. What is it that you are hoping to achieve or what is it that you are wanting to communicate? Messages are often lost when language is critical or condemning: (“You always, or you never…”). Set ground rules in your relationship such as no name calling, no threatening divorce etc. and be cognizant of the the language that you are using. Language can be like the lighter fluid thrown on a smoldering fire- causing the fire to escalate out of control. Remember the goal is to face the challenge and work to put an end to the conflict rather than escalate it. Just because a thought goes through your head doesn’t mean it needs to come out of your mouth.

Tip #7: First seek to understand, then be understood. This golden rule of communication is key in being able to resolve conflict and promote change. Simply listening is a powerful tool in resolving conflict. “People start to heal the moment that they feel heard.” (Cheryl Richardson). Ask yourself, what is it that they want me to understand? When you get into a conflict, try and see the conflict as if you were a fly on the ceiling. Often, underneath the discussion of the conflict, someone is asking for more emotional connection. See if you can understand where they are coming from. “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”(Thomas S. Monson).

While conflict is a normal part of life, these tips can help you navigate and successfully handle the challenges you face together and strengthen your relationships. Practically speaking, share these tips with the ones you love and the ones you have the most conflict with 😉 and watch your ability to handle conflict improve!

Three Tips on Love From Mister Rogers {Including a One Minute Tip That Will Enhance Your Life}

For over 30 years, starting in 1968, Fred Rogers entertained and enlightened millions of viewers on his popular PBS television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Even now, 50 years later, PBS still airs an animated show created and produced by the Fred Rogers productions called “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” The impact of Mister Rogers is undeniable and difficult to measure. Here are three tips from Mister Rogers specifically about love.

Tip #1: “You don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.”

This is a quote from Mister Roger’s commencement address at Dartmouth College in 2002. He was explaining the meaning behind a song from his popular PBS television program:
“It’s you I like.
It’s not the things you wear.
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like.
The way you are right now
The way down deep inside you.
Not the things that hide you.
Not your caps and gowns,
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like.
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you remember
Even when you’re feeling blue.
That it’s you I like,
It’s you, yourself
It’s you.
It’s you I like.”

Knowing that we are inherently loved–not because of anything that we have done or accomplished but simply because we are, is one of the most crucial concepts that we learn.

Tip #2: “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It’s an active noun- like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

I like you just the way you are does not imply that there is no room for change or growth. In fact, as Mister Roger explains, “I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.” Love is the ingredient which allows for any and all positive attributes to flourish and grow.

Tip #3: “When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade, and of course the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.”

Recognizing and accepting our own strengths and shortcomings allows us to appreciate and accept that the humanness of everyone else and to truly love them. Mister Rogers noted, “What interests me so much about the characters of the Bible is that they make mistakes but God uses them anyways, in important ways. Nobody is perfect, but God can even use our imperfections.”

Mister Rogers’ wisdom about love cannot be understated. Today’s Tuesday Tip is an exercise developed by Mister Rogers that within one minute will enhance your gratitude and cultivate the love that you feel.

Mister Rogers was an advocate for what he called the silent minute. During this minute he would ask that you think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Whether they were near or far away or even in heaven, if they’ve loved you and encouraged you and wanted what was best in life for you he asked that you honor them and devote some thoughts to them during one silent minute. Imagine how grateful they must be that during your silent times you remember how important they are to you.

Try the silent minute exercise and see if your gratitude and love increase. Those 60 seconds can easily end up being your favorite part of your day. In the words of the infamous guru of childhood programing:

 

5 Simple Steps to Change Negative Thinking

Truly the greatest battles are fought on the battlegrounds within our minds. A question that I often asked clients really showcased this. Imagine the thoughts that you told yourself yesterday were actually heard by the walls of your house. What color would the walls be? It probably won’t shock many of you to know that ‘black’ was a common response.

So, how can we change negative thinking?

These are simplified tips, but they really do work. I should note though that this requires teaching yourself something new and retraining how you think which is a process so don’t get discouraged if this takes time. You do not need to be perfect at it, but the more consistent you are, the easier it gets and the less mental exertion it requires to create the new neural pathway or way of thinking.

The thoughts that we think about ourselves have the greatest influence on how we react to the world.

Our brains are filled with neural pathways or basically paths or hiking trails in our brains. The more we follow a train of thought, the more we create that path and the grass gets trodden down and the trail becomes more ingrained.  What you focus on with your thoughts and feelings strengthens the neural pathways in our brains. Our brains are wired to follow the path of least resistance or the trail that has been traveled the most.

Recent research led by a team at the University of College London published 10 years ago has shown that the average time to develop new habits is 66 days. This study shows some important things to note: One, the amount of time each participants in that study took to develop a new habit highly varied (from 18 -254 days).  We are all wired differently so how long it takes for us to form a new habit will depend on each unique individual.  But most important thing to note that this study showed was that, while the time varied, ALL were able to create the new habit.

So, what are the five simplified tips to change negative thinking?

One. You need to make a conscious goal of what you want to change. Mentally state to yourself what you desire to change. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and MIT have discovered that meditation (or prayer) increases gray matter in the prefrontal cortex which helps shift the body from the stress response to the relaxation response. Meditation (Prayer) is the highest form of mental training that disciplines the mind to focus on what you want and allows the nervous system to create a state of calmness or homeostasis. Mindfulness is powerful in creating change.

Label it and Mentally Say: “Stop!”

Two. When you begin to have a negative thought, you need to label it in your mind as such and mentally stay “Stop!” Having a label such as “This is not helpful thinking” or “That is harmful” or “This leads to feelings that make me feel bad” allows your brain to create an aversion to the formerly easy way of thinking that it has gotten used to.

Three. Give your brain a task to think of instead. Think what your best friend would tell you (“I am a fixer of mistakes. I can do hard things. I matter. You are in essense building a new neural pathway in your brain or a new way of thinking.

Four. Focus on the results that you want. “I want to be a happier person. I want to be a better mother.” Find an action that would give you those results. (ie smiling, acts of kindness or service.) No act, in the right direction, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

Five. Repeat, Practice, Repeat. Neural pathways are strengthened into habits through the repetition and practice of thinking, feeling and acting. Keep going. It will get easier.

Practically speaking, “Be kind to everyone-including and starting with yourself.” -Brita