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4 Subtle Things You Say That Sabotage You From Being Taken Seriously And Getting Ahead

by Mia Mor 

Words matter. The language you use actually says a lot about you.

Regardless of who your audience is or how you are delivering your message (in a meeting, a presentation, over dinner, an email or a text), persuasive communication starts with the words you choose. Communicating effectively improves your self-confidence and earns the respect of others.

Terms to Avoid

Here are four very common terms to avoid that do not convey confidence and credibility:

1.     “I Don’t Know.”

We’ve all had uncomfortable moments, in a client meeting, a board room, with our manager or a supervisor where we simply did not know the answer to a question. Nobody likes to be caught off guard but you risk sounding incompetent, and even lazy, when you respond with “I don’t know.”

You are not expected to know everything, nor should you pretend you do. It is a good rule of thumb that if you are being asked the question it is because you are thought of as capable, but without a thought out response, you risk looking inept.

Here are some alternatives to help you out of that awkward situation:

  1. Ask an open-ended question.
    “Let me make sure I understand what you are looking for, can you give me more detail?”
    By asking an open-ended question this can buy time to formulate your response and clarify what the person is asking.
  2. Express what you do know. You may know something of what is being asked and can make an educated assessment.
    “Right now, my best estimate is… let me gather more information and get back to you.”
  3. Show that you are handling it. You may just not know. That is ok. Let them know that you value the question and that you care to get the information for them.
    You know I want to give this the attention it deserves, let me get a comprehensive answer and get back to you.” 
    Or, if it not related to your area of expertise,
    Let me make sure I find the right person for you to speak with.”

2.     “I Don’t Care.”

(Or, alternatively, “whatever you want”). This does not make you look cooperative or like a team player; this passive communication style implies that your ideas are not as important as others and it gives permission to others to ignore your wants and needs. Have an opinion; being around someone who never weighs in is the equivalent of a limp handshake. If you want to be respected, show interest and have an idea. How you express your opinions at work is a direct reflection of how people experience who you are.

I had a client who felt that he was being overlooked for opportunities at work, after some exploration, I gave him an initial assignment; whenever he was asked about anything, he was not allowed to respond with “I don’t care” or “I don’t know.” He did not realize how often that was his go-to response, especially around seemingly benign questions like, “where shall we go for lunch?” Instead, he was directed to be the decider, to answer the questions decisively and then be willing to “go with the flow.” (Taking other people’s input into consideration will maintain you as a balanced decision maker).

Within two months of putting this into effect, people were seeking out my client for his opinion. He chuckled as he told me he overheard two coworkers planning a colleague’s party, saying “Let’s ask John, he always knows where to go.” When he saw how quickly his colleagues’ perception of him changed, he gained the confidence to be more vocal in meetings. Shortly thereafter the higher-ups started to notice him too and he went from being overlooked to being the “go-to” guy.

Voicing your opinion, (without bulldozing it over others), commands respect as people begin to see you as an influencer, which opens doors for opportunity to come your way.

3.     “I’m Sorry”

Yes, we should be accountable for our actions, and of course we should apologize for a mistake if we’re responsible or if we’ve done something that hurt someone’s feelings. But too often the words “I’m sorry” are used as filler in a sentence, which can make you look passive or like you lack confidence.

The overuse of “I’m sorry” has gotten a lot of press lately. The New York Times wrote an op-ed piece and “Inside Amy Schumer” had a very funny sketch of professional women excessively apologizing. Yes, women often overuse this phrase and there are men that can benefit from paying attention to how much they use this phrase as well. The point is that routine use of this phrase definitely undermines how other people perceive you.

Being polite and saying, “I’m sorry” are not synonymous. Here are some common misuses of “I’m sorry” that are unproductive:

  • Don’t apologize to be nice. When someone bumps into you, it is not necessary for you to apologize for taking up space in someone else’s orbit. Often, for women, that is often an automatic response.
  • Don’t apologize when you have no reason to be sorry“I’m sorry, I will be right back. I have to use the restroom.” Or “I’m sorry, but this is not what I ordered.” Taking care of you is no reason to apologize.
  • Don’t apologize for someone else’s bad behavior, “I’m sorry, I just don’t like those kinds of jokes.” The person telling the off-color jokes should be the one apologizing.
  • Don’t apologize when asking someone a question related to their job function, “I’m sorry to bother you, but is that report ready?” Again that undermines your role and puts you in a position of being seen as meek.
  • Don’t apologize when you do not mean it or as an excuse for being irresponsible. This also undermines your professionalism and your trustworthiness within a company. It is better to be genuine and take responsibility.

4.     “Just”

Similar to its cousin “I’m sorry, “Just” is used too frequently and diminishes the user of this word. It is like a timid knock on a door requesting permission; it minimizes your position and makes you appear passive. “Just checking in“just wondering, “just thought I’d ask are all phrases that give authority to the person on the receiving end of these words.

Having an effective communication style shows that you respect yourself because you’re willing to stand up for your interests and express your thoughts and feelings while also honoring the thoughts and feelings of others.

With just a few tweaks you can shift how others see you and your perception of yourself awakening to new opportunities.

Take control of your vocabulary and change your life.


Originally posted by Sentis on

The Sentis Brain Animation Series takes you on a tour of the brain through a series of short and sharp animations. If you are interested in using our videos for private or commercial purposes, please complete our online application form: The fourth in the series explains how our most complex organ is capable of changing throughout our lives.

Why grown-ups love coloring books too.

originally posted on Mar 9, 2016 by  Tom Roston


Just what is the adult coloring book craze all about, anyhow?

Anyone who has appreciated a meditative mental drift while knitting or mowing a lawn knows that there is something calming about engaging in a familiar, low-impact activity that requires minimal thought and bestows a clear sense of progress. That goes at least some of the way toward explaining the immense appeal of adult coloring books, which now line bookstore shelves with promises to be “inspirational,” “stress relieving,” and “mindful.” Art therapist Marygrace Berberian, the director of New York University’s Art Therapy in Schools Program, considers why people are spending their evenings coloring in elaborate, fanciful designs with sharpened pencils, while positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (TED Talk: Flow, the Secret to Happiness) helps fill in the lines.

Color. Restore. Repeat. “Engaging in self-care is important for everyone, whether it’s jogging or the self-soothing ritual of art-making,” Berberian says. “We need to find things that are restorative. Coloring in a mandala allows a person to turn down the volume of ruminations and focus on the task at hand. There is mindfulness when we are not looking at our phones and focused on the here and now.” Berberian cites the work of her graduate students who have helped facilitate art therapy groups for Rikers Island prison inmates, who tend to choose preformed images for their sessions as opposed to creating original art on a blank page. “It generally speaks to the level of control they feel comfortable with,” says Berberian. “And it speaks to the mastery we are all seeking in our day to day world.” In a position paper, Richard Carolan and Donna Betts of the  American Art Therapy Association wrote that coloring books, “provide a controlled, contained use of art for self-soothing purposes and their success-oriented nature is conducive to fulfillment of the need for instant gratification. They can be completed with minimal risk.”

Coloring is therapeutic but not therapy. “The coloring book phenomenon is helping to reintroduce art as an important component of health and wellness,” Carolan and Betts continued, adding that the organization “supports the use of coloring books for pleasure and self-care, however these uses should not be confused with the delivery of professional art therapy services.” Berberian acknowledges there’s been some controversy over coloring books in the art therapy community. “I lean toward the fact that there are therapeutic effects but it is not art therapy,” she says. “Although art therapy relies on the practice of creating art, it also involves the relationship and witnessing of a trained practitioner.”

For many adults who color, the process might well be a flow hack, a way of achieving a simulation of rapture but in a relaxed state.

Coloring toward transcendence. Berberian cites the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, particularly his concept of “flow,” for part of the appeal of coloring books. “Csikszentmihalyi talked about this idea of flow when the artist gets caught up in the rapture,” she says. “I know when I am painting in my studio, hours can pass and so the subjectivity of time comes into play. In the process, you lose where you are. Coloring parallels with the idea of flow.”

Flow fact-check. In Csikszentmihalyi’s TED Talk, his description of what it feels to be in flow clearly relates to coloring: being focused, having confidence in achieving the task at hand, achieving a sense of serenity and being in a state of timelessness. But where coloring seems to miss the bar for flow is in its inherent ease and accessibility — after all, anybody can do it! “Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments of our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times,” he wrote in his 1990 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. “The best moments occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile … in the long run optimal experiences add up to a sense of mastery — or perhaps better, a sense of participation in determining the content of life — that comes as close to what is usually meant by happiness as anything else we can conceivably imagine.” Both Berberian and Csikszentmihalyi assert that different people have different limits. Csikszentmihalyi wrote that a child building a tower with blocks and a violinist mastering an intricate passage could each be achieving optimal experiences through different tasks. But although coloring in a coloring book might not have been an activity Csikszentmihalyi had in mind, Berberian says that for some people, “coloring in an intricate design would create the challenge that flow theory presents.”

Feel the microflow. Via email, Csikszentmihalyi communicated that he had “never seen/used/heard of adult coloring books,” but he made a connection to a variation of flow he noticed when he was a young translator at scientific conferences in Europe in the 1950s. He himself found the work extremely stressful — and noticed that most of the veteran translators doodled while working. On pads of paper, they would produce baroque ornamentations or cats in various poses, which would “free some of their brain,” he recalls. He concludes that adult coloring, like doodling, might better be understood as “microflow,” a compromised form of flow he first wrote about in the 1970s. For many adults who color, the process might well be a flow hack, a way of achieving a simulation of rapture but in a relaxed state. Perhaps coloring doesn’t “make life worth living,” which is what makes flow significant, according to Csikszentmihalyi, but it certainly helps take the edge off.

Clay might be the next adult stress-relieving sensation. Another attractive element of coloring is that it allows us to regress and tap into our inner child. And yet, some adults find picking out the right colors and getting the shades just right to be too stressful. For those people, Berberian suggests working with more forgiving material. Play-Doh, anyone?

Endless Potential! 10 Steps to Your Purpose in Life

Is there such a thing as the perfect job or career?

originally written by Trenton Willson on Mar 24, 2016

Are you satisfied with your job? Is the pay and benefits worth the effort? Do you have enough family and leisure time? If not, why?

I have always enjoyed my jobs, but to be honest, until now I have failed to reach financial freedom and a family/leisure lifestyle that I crave. I have come to realize that we all have an ideal purpose in life. We all have a collection of talents arranged in such a way that no one else in the world does. We are uniquely in position to bless the lives of others. So logically, I firmly believe that we all haveTHE perfect career option and it is our job to find out what that is. Watch this video of Steve Harvey speaking to his audience and join me for a discussion afterward.


Have you ever settled for "just a job" when you know you are more capable and qualified for something better? Imagine how this world would be different if everyone loved their career and believed in their potential to change the world. Here are 10 steps that you can do to find your natural, world altering career: 

  1. Know Thyself- Explore deeply who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, interests, skills and your place in this world. This includes your beliefs of where you came from, why you are here and where you are going.
  2. Your true nature- Knowing your true nature involves understanding your chemical make up, your personality, your tendencies and your natural movement through life. (See It's Just My Nature by Carol Tuttle for an excellent system)
  3. What is your question? - Michael Wesch, Professor at K State University says that "all great learning begins with a question (a quest!)" You must find your quest and see where it takes you! (Full speech "The end of wonder in the age of whatever.")
  4. How do you learn? - Knowing how you learn is an important part of knowing what you are capable of doing. Understand the different styles of learning and what that means for you in your profession.
  5. Skill Building- Conducting a skills inventory to see what you already have is critical to building the skills you need. Focus on your best skills. In the introduction to the book Strengthsfinder 2.0 it discusses building on strengths instead of focusing on weaknesses. 
  6. Put yourself in the right place at the right time- Create a vision! Stand in the places where the jobs and people are who can get you where you want to be. Get involved in the community and in your industry and eventually, fate will introduce itself to you personally.
  7. Surround yourself with the right people- Effective networking and mentoring with people who are already living your dream is one of the best ways to succeed. "We become the average of the 5 people we associate with the most." Dan Clark
  8. Create your success- Take action, decide your destiny and go after it. Take the leap! If you are off track, the act of motion will take you through the course corrections to get you where you need to be.
    "It is our failure to become our perceived ideal, that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It's not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention."
    Conan O'Brien Dartmouth 2011Commencement Address
  9. Spread the wealth- The most successful people give back! Once you are living the dream and creating wealth, give back. Pay it forward! The money you make is far less important than what you do with it once you have it.
  10. Pass it on- Now it is your turn to teach. Find or create a medium to mentor and provide others with the tools and wisdom you have obtained in your journey.


12 Little Known Laws of Karma (That Will Change your Life)

Originally posted on   by Raven E. Aurlineus

What is Karma? Karma is the Sanskrit word for action. It is equivalent to Newton’s law of ‘every action must have a reaction’. When we think, speak or act we initiate a force that will react accordingly. This returning force maybe modified, changed or suspended, but most people will not be able eradicate it.

This law of cause and effect is not punishment, but is wholly for the sake of education or learning.

A person may not escape the consequences of his actions, but he will suffer only if he himself has made the conditions ripe for his suffering. Ignorance of the law is no excuse whether the laws are man-made or universal.
To stop being afraid and to start being empowered in the worlds of karma andreincarnation, here is what you need to know about karmic laws.

1. The Great Law

  • “As you sow, so shall you reap.” This is also known as the “Law of Cause and Effect.”
  • If what we want is happiness, peace, love, and friendship, then we should BE happy, peaceful, loving and a true friend.
  • Whatever we put out in the Universe is what comes back to us.

2. The Law of Creation

  • Life doesn’t just happen. It requires our participation.
    • We are one with the Universe, both inside and out.
  • Whatever surrounds us gives us clues to our inner state.
  • Be yourself, and surround yourself with what you want to have in your life.

3. The Law of Humility

  • You can’t change something if you refuse to accept it.
  • If what we see is an enemy, or someone with a character trait that we find to benegative, then we ourselves are not focused on a higher level of existence.

4. The Law of Growth

  • “Wherever you go, there you are.”
  • For us to grow in Spirit, it is we who must change, and not the people, places or things around us.
  • The only given we have in our lives is ourselves, and that is the only factor we have control over.
  • When we change who and what we are within our hearts, our lives follow suit and change too.

5. The Law of Responsibility

  • Whenever there is something wrong in my life, there is something wrong in me.
  • We mirror what surrounds us, and what surrounds us mirrors us; this is a Universal Truth.
  • We must take responsibility for what is in our life.

6. The Law of Connection

  • Even if something we do seems inconsequential, it is very important that it gets done as everything in the Universe is connected.
  • Each step leads to the next step, and so forth and so on.
  • Someone must do the initial work to get a job done.
  • Neither the first step nor the last are of greater significance, as they were both needed to accomplish the task.
  • Past, Present and Future are all connected.

7. The Law of Focus

  • You cannot think of two things at the same time.
  • Because of this, when our focus is on Spiritual Values, it is impossible for us to have lower thoughts such as greed or anger.

8. The Law of Giving and Hospitality

  • If you believe something to be true, then sometime in your life you will be called upon to demonstrate that particular truth.
  • Here is where we put what we CLAIM that we have learned into actual PRACTICE.

9. The Law of Here and Now

  • Looking backward to examine what was or forward to worry about the future prevents us from being totally in the here and now.
  • Old thoughts, old patterns of behavior, and old dreams prevent us from having new ones.

10. The Law of Change

  • History repeats itself until we learn the lessons that we need to change our path.

11. The Law of Patience and Reward

  • All rewards require initial toil.
  • Rewards of lasting value require patient and persistent toil.
  • True joy comes from doing what we’re suppose to be doing, and knowing that the reward will come in its own time.

12. The Law of Significance and Inspiration

  • You get back from something whatever you have put into it.
  • The true value of something is a direct result of the energy and intent that is put into it.
  • Every personal contribution is also a contribution to the Whole.
  • Lackluster contributions have no impact on the Whole, nor do they work to diminish it.
  • Loving contributions bring life to, and inspire, the Whole.

Why You Need To Hire A Coach

Originally posted on Forbes by William Arruda

Do you have a coach?

If not, you could be limiting your career success. That’s because coaches help you identify and focus on what’s important, which accelerates your success. According to, good coaches:

  • Create a safe environment in which people see themselves more clearly;
  • Identify gaps between where the client is and where the client needs or wants to be
  • Ask for more intentional thought, action and behavior changes than the client would have asked of him or herself
  • Guide the building of the structure, accountability, and support necessary to ensure sustained commitment

Successful athletes obviously understand the power of coaching. The United Kingdom Coaching Strategy describes the role of the sports coach as one that “enables the athlete to achieve levels of performance to a degree that may not have been possible if left to his/her own endeavours.” Innovative companies understand that coaching can help career-minded professionals increase their performance at work. They invest in coaching for their senior leaders and high potentials. (For more on this, read the section on why coaching is not just for executives anymore in my report on personal branding trends for 2015.)

Coaching also has an impact on an organization’s financial performance; according to an ICF and HCI study, 60% of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures report their revenue to be above average, compared to their peer group.

When it comes to building your personal brand, a coach can be a powerful resource who can help you get out of your own way, stand out, and take action to achieve the things that are truly important to you. Your coach can help you:

  1. Get clear about your goals. Your company may be pulling you in one direction, while your manager is giving you different advice based on other criteria. Your coach will help you determine what’s really important to you and help you stay focused on that.
  2. Identify blind spots. Coaches help you figure out what you don’t know, and they clue you in to things you may not be able to see. They will be honest with you because they are not vested in any specific outcome.
  3. Be accountable. Coaches keep you on track and moving forward toward new levels of  achievement. For many of us, having someone we answer to motivates us to act.
  4. Focus your development efforts. Coaches help you know the difference between weaknesses you need to fix and those that are best left as they are. This can help you invest time and energy only in the most fruitful opportunities.
  5. Gain a competitive advantage. A coach can help you get from point a to b faster than you could on your own, helping you differentiate yourself from the pack and advance your career at a quicker clip.
  6. Acquire leadership skills. Coaches model skills that are valuable for today’s leaders. After you work with a coach for a while, you can start to adopt those powerful questioning techniques, which helps you become a better listener. This is just one of the many ways you can  integrate a coaching style into your own leadership approach.
  7. Increase engagement. A recent Gallup study revealed that just 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. Yet according to a study done by HCI and the ICF, coaching correlates with increased employee engagement; 65% of employees from companies with strong coaching cultures rated themselves as highly engaged.
  8. Feel happier. Because coaches help you identify and align your values, create a focus, cut through clutter, and clear tolerations, they help you increase your professional fulfillment.

Simply put, a coach will help you stoke your success. How much is that worth to you?

You may even be able to get your company to foot the bill. Talk to your manager and/or your talent development staff. They might be willing to invest in coaching for you if you make a good case for it. Also, some leadership development programs come with coaching components. So sign up for those if you can. It’s a great way to experience coaching.

And if your company chooses not to pay for your coaching, make the investment yourself. It will pay off in clarity, happiness and increased success. Think of coaching as an investment, not an expense.

The Smarter And More Independent You Are, The Harder It Is To Find Love

Originally Posted on EliteDaily by Paul Hudson

Love is much simpler when you’re young.

As we get older, love gets complicated. It becomes more complex, more intricate and MUCH more delicate.

Falling in love is harder. Letting go of past loves is even harder than that.

Why is this? Why doesn’t love get EASIER every year? This would make more sense. And the truth seems unnatural — backwards, even.

More wisdom and experience should make it easier for us to find love. And, believe it or not, falling in love is partly a decision. Love isn’t magical on its own; we make it magical.

With age, that magic fades. Life’s magic fades, too.

Of course, how much the magic fades depends on the person. And because “true” magic (à la Harry Potter) doesn’t exist, the kind of magic we’re familiar with happens when you accept the answer to life is not knowing the answer.

And that is partially why love loses its magical qualities over time. The more intelligent we become, the less there is to wonder. The more you understand love and your role in it, the harder it is for you to find romance.

At the same time, some of the most intelligent people in the world fall in love with the highest frequency.

So there must be more to the equation. And there is.

In order to fall in love, you need to feel that you need love. Because if you don’t believe you need or deserve love, you’ll reject it — whether consciously or subconsciously.

And what does it mean when someone wants or needs love? It means that person wants a partner to share life’s adventures. This person is, to put it bluntly, lonely.

So, the more independent and intelligent you are, the harder it is for you to find love.

Independence — more than intelligence — ruins our relationships.

Think about it. Why do people break up even when things are (seemingly) going well?

It’s because they want independence. They don’t want to spend every single day with their significant others.

And even if they love each other, they need time for themselves. They need to spend time alone.

When two people enter a relationship, they give up some of their independence in order to have a loving and caring partnership. And it’s a beautiful thing — it really is. But the more independent you are, the more likely you are to feel suffocated.

People often feel suffocated when their partner has different ideas about the level of independence “allowed” in the relationship.

When one person is significantly more independent than the other, the relationship is going to become messy. The least independent person is going to try and cling on to the more independent as hard as he or she can, while the independent person will do his or her best to get some breathing room.

One feels hurt, and the other feels smothered.

The trick is finding someone who is just as independent. Though I’m afraid this doesn’t guarantee anything — your need for independence will vary over time, there’s no way to predict what you’ll need in the future.

But having similar requirements in terms of independence does make it more likely that you’ll be compatible.

“Independence compatibility” still isn’t enough. Your intelligence will make things difficult.

Romantic love — at least how we perceive it now — is doomed.

If you think about it, it’s funny. We’ve learned how to do math. We’ve learned about science and literature. I can even remember learning how to balance a check back in eighth grade.

But we were never taught how to love. There are no classes. No textbook chapter is dedicated to it. We go into love blind.

And we’re silly enough to believe that, because love is a natural phenomenon, we don’t need to learn how to do it properly.

Do you know what else is natural? Running. But we have professional athletes and trainers. Talking is natural, but we have professional speakers. Thinking is also natural, and we have scholars and philosophers.

Love may be instinctive but there are certainly better and worse ways to love. There is certainly plenty to learn.

But for some reason, we don’t write a lesson plan for love. Loving is arguably the most important thing people do in life, but we don’t teach our kids how to do it properly.

So what happens when the most intelligent people on this planet experience love? They question it. They want to better understand it, explore it and test it.

Get stuck on a math problem, and it’ll drive you nuts. Get stuck trying to figure out love, and it almost certainly will drive you mad.

Love has started wars. It has taken lives. It has tortured, maimed and destroyed. And the more intelligent you are, the more perplexed you will be by the way our world understands and portrays love.

Because love centers on emotion, it’s not easy for an intelligent person to find and keep it. The emotions will send this person on an anxious tailspin.

If you’re looking for a theory on love, you simply need to find one — or you need to accept the truth that you aren’t willing to face.

Love isn’t magical on its own. We make it magical. It’s all in our heads.

10 Ways You’re Making Your Life Harder Than It Has To Be

Originally posted on by Tim Hoch

1. You ascribe intent.

Another driver cut you off. Your friend never texted you back. Your co-worker went to lunch without you. Everyone can find a reason to be offended on a steady basis. So what caused you to be offended? You assigned bad intent to these otherwise innocuous actions. You took it as a personal affront, a slap in the face.

Happy people do not do this. They don’t take things personally. They don’t ascribe intent to the unintentional actions of others.

2. You’re the star of your own movie.

It is little wonder that you believe the world revolves around you. After all, you have been at the very center of every experience you have ever had.

You are the star of your own movie. You wrote the script. You know how you want it to unfold. You even know how you want it to end.

Unfortunately you forgot to give your script to anyone else. As a result, people are unaware of the role they are supposed to play. Then, when they screw up their lines, or fail to fall in love with you or don’t give you a promotion, your movie is ruined.

Lose your script. Let someone else star once in awhile. Welcome new characters. Embrace plot twists.

3. You fast forward to apocalypse.

I have a bad habit of fast forwarding everything to its worst possible outcome and being pleasantly surprised when the result is marginally better than utter disaster or jail time. My mind unnecessarily wrestles with events that aren’t even remotely likely. My sore throat is cancer. My lost driver’s license fell into the hands of an al-Qaeda operative who will wipe out my savings account.

Negativity only breeds more negativity. It is a happiness riptide. It will carry you away from shore and if you don’t swim away from it, will pull you under.

4. You have unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations.

Among their many shortcomings of your family and friends is the harsh reality that they cannot read your mind or anticipate your whims.

Did your boyfriend forget the six and a half month anniversary of your first movie date? Did your girlfriend refuse to call at an appointed hour? Did your friend fail to fawn over your tribal tattoo?

Unmet expectations will be at the root of most of your unhappiness in life. Minimize your expectations, maximize your joy.

5. You are waiting for a sign.

I have a friend who won’t make a decision without receiving a “sign.” I suppose she is waiting on a trumpeted announcement from God. She is constantly paralyzed by a divinity that is either heavily obscured or frustratingly tardy. I’m not disavowing that fate or a higher power plays a role in our lives. I’m just saying that it is better to help shape fate than be governed by it.

6. You don’t take risks.

Two words: Live boldly. Every single time you are offered a choice that involves greater risk, take it. You will lose on many of them but when you add them up at the end of your life you’ll be glad you did.

7. You constantly compare your life to others.

A few years ago I was invited to a nice party at a big warehouse downtown. I was enjoying the smooth jazz, box wine and crustless sandwiches. What more could a guy want? Later in the evening I noticed a steady parade of well-heeled people slide past and disappear into another room. I peeked and saw a large party with beautiful revelers dancing and carrying on like Bacchus. Suddenly my gig wasn’t as fun as it had been all because it didn’t appear to measure up to the party next door- a party I didn’t even know existed until just moments before.

I do this frequently. Those people are having more fun. Mary has a bigger boat. Craig gets all the lucky breaks. Ted has more money. John is better looking.

Stop it.

Always remember what Teddy Roosevelt said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

8. You let other people steal from you.

If you had a million dollars in cash under your mattress, you would check it regularly and take precautions to insure it is safe. The one possession you have that is more important than money is time. But you don’t do anything to protect it. In fact you willingly give it to thieves. Selfish people, egotistical people, negative people, people who won’t shut up. Treat your time like Fort Knox. Guard it closely and give it only to those who deserve and respect it.

9. You can’t/won’t let go.

These are getting a little harder aren’t they? That’s because sometimes you have to work at happiness. Some hurdles are too difficult to clear by simply adjusting your point of view or adopting a positive mindset.

Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to turn your back on a failed relationship? Do you need to come to terms with the death of a loved one?

Life is full of loss. But, in a sense, real happiness would not be possible without it.  It helps us appreciate and savor the things that really matter. It helps us grow. It can help us help others grow.

Closure is a word for people who have never really suffered. There’s no such thing. Just try to “manage” your loss. Put it in perspective. You will always have some regret and doubt about your loss. You may always second guess yourself. If only you had said this, or tried that.

You’re not alone. Find someone who understands and talk to that person. Reach out for support. If all else fails, try #10 below.

10. You don’t give back.

One way to deal with loss is to immerse yourself in doing good. Volunteer. Get involved in life.

It doesn’t even have to be a big, structured thing. Say a kind word. Encourage someone. Pay a visit to someone who is alone. Get away from your self-absorption.

When it comes down to it, there are two types of people in this world. There are givers and there are takers. Givers are happy. Takers are miserable. What are you?


Kindness Takes Practice. Start Now

Originally posted on the HuffingtonPost by Kinnie Starr 

It's Christmas again, a pretty stressful time for many folks, and I'm thinking again about kindness. A peer of mine suggested a while back that nobody owes anyone any kindness. This, apparently, is her working life philosophy. Her viewpoint impacted me for a few sad days. She's right, I thought, the world is a hard and competitive place, we don't owe each other any kindness, I just need a tougher skin.

We get our cues on how to behave from many sources: one another, language and print trends, our families, our work environments, TV, the Internet and social media. I would argue that many of us (myself included) consume too much screen/TV time, and model ourselves off of media cues, both consciously and unconsciously.

Let's look at television in terms of behavioural coding. Arguably the Internet is an equally if not more powerful platform in terms of teaching us how to be, but let's look at TV just for a minute. TV content shifted dramatically in focus between 1987 and 2007. Those of us old enough to remember television before reality TV can likely attest to that shift.

In 1987, "community feeling" was ranked number one in on-screen values. I'm not a big TV buff so I'm can't rattle off a ton of shows, but television was on everywhere I went, and in my family home, and I recall people loving shows like Seinfeld, The Facts Of Life, The Fresh Prince and The Brady Bunch. These shows focus on human relationships rather than competition, getting famous and calling each other out. Sure there were competitive shows back in the day, like Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy, but the whole reality TV fascination and modern modality of shaming each other, inciting drama, and gossiping wasn't a central part of programming the way it is in the blockbuster hits of today like The Bachelorette and Survivor, and those Real Housewives shows. I know there is great TV programming out there, too, but I'm not sure how many people seek that alternative. Hopefully it's more and more every year!

Between 1987 and 2007, community as a core TV programming value dropped to number eleven, and the pursuit of fame became the number one core value. I don't know the stats for 2015, but to my eye, seeking fame, getting money, 'calling out' another person in a fit of righteousness, winning; these seem to have become core mainstream TV values, and with that core value system comes a mass of people emulating those values.

We in the first world are full time media consumers and we, at our worst, copy the shitty behaviour we digest daily. We consume content that teaches us getting even at all costs is better than being charitable. We are taught it's fine to text or email the meanest possible taunts. Divorcees are taught that ruining the ex's life is appropriate. We circulate corrosive behaviours caught on camera, we turn a blind eye to gang rapes, and we allow cyber bullying and lateral violence even in our own families. We troll posts and aggressively attempt to 'put others in their place'. When something bad happens to another person, we gloat, claiming they had it coming. As Daniel Pinchbeck states, we lack a moral center in our society.

If our neurons get hit all day by examples of vengeful, toxic behaviours, does it not follow that the synapses of our brains are being wired to continue these standards? And since the brain is a dense battery of synapses firing, wouldn't it make sense that we could therefore also re-pattern, to some extent, those synapses with a disciplined application of compassion as a personal practice? In the case of my peer who told me that nobody owes anybody else any kindness, what if instead all we owe each other is kindness?

To be clear, I am not talking about 'niceness'. I am not talking about protocolled and dictated politeness. I consider politeness at times to be a surface set of conventions that restrict rather than welcome people, and leave opportunity to shame one another, because politeness and the conventions of what is considered correct differ significantly between communities. I am talking about kindness, the process of being gentle rather than judgmental, curious rather than dismissive. We all behave poorly at times. But how we approach our mistakes and the mistakes of others can make a difference.

If we break apart the word kindness, at its root is the word kin -- meaning we are all connected. To think of ourselves as connected encourages the idea that we do in fact owe each other kindness, simply because every positive intention can have a similar output in an interconnected world. From a quantum physics perspective, this is actually accurate.

So although my peer briefly convinced me that kindness is not necessary between people, I refuse to embrace that value, and I know I'm not alone. I see people reject meanness and competitiveness all the time. I look for gentleness and I find it. It's there in all of us if we chose to share it. Let's share it throughout the holiday season and for the entire year of 2016 as a gift to each other.

Are You Secretly Judgmental Of Others? Why It’s An Important Clue About Your Inner World

Why It’s An Important Clue About Your Inner World

Originally posted on by Katie and Gay Hendricks

Do you notice that you often secretly judge others?

For example, your sister tells you about a new car she bought and you think, She can’t possibly afford that car on her salary. She’s so irresponsible about money.

Or your partner leaves his dirty dishes in the sink before heading out to meet his friends and you think, He’s so lazy and sloppy. It drives me bananas.

Throughout the day, every day, you find yourself silently criticizing others.

My co-worker at work has gotten scatter-brained… my neighbor is too nosy… my friend is too self-absorbed with posting selfies on social media…

  • What does this all mean?
  • Are you surrounded by people who don’t have their act together?
  • Is society just falling apart?
  • Or is this a clue about something way deeper and way more fundamental about YOU?

How Your Relationship With Others Brings Up The Next Biggest Thing You Need To Learn About Yourself

When we judge others or feel our “buttons being pushed” by the things they say and do, we may actually be projecting our feelings onto others.

We are accusing others of the very things we disown or reject about ourselves.

Here’s how it works…

Let’s say you have a fear of rejection that stems from something far back in childhood.

More than likely, you’re unaware of this fear. You haven’t yet acknowledged it. Or you know about it, but reject that it’s an issue.

Your subconscious mind is aware of it, though. And that part of your mind will always seek opportunities to work out this old issue. It will lead you into situations where you can bring that fear into your awareness.

In other words, you will enter into relationships with people who will “trigger” that fear or unacknowledged emotion inside you.

You will attract a relationship where your partner will withdraw, act cold, make plans with his or her friends instead of with you, have a hobby they love that doesn’t (or can’t) involve you, etc.

Instead of causing you to face and accept your fear, their behavior will cause you to be secretly judgmental or critical.

You don’t think, Hmm, I’m feeling afraid that he’s going to abandon me and I’ll be alone again.

Instead you think, He never spends time with me, he’s off having fun instead of fixing these things around the house, he’s wasting money playing golf all day when he should be saving money and spending the day with me.

Another example – let’s say that you consider yourself a neat, tidy and financially conservative person. You keep your home and car clean and you never spend more than you make.

But deep down, you’re really someone who wishes they could forgo responsibility for a while, kick up their feet, and be self-indulgent for a change.

However, you don’t want to admit that to yourself. It’s just not something you accept about yourself, for whatever reason. Maybe in childhood you were rejected for being that way.

Your creative mind will actually draw you into situations where you are around people who seem sloppy, irresponsible and flaky.

And instead of admitting that you’re a little bit like them, you will find yourself secretly complaining about them.

What Do You Need To Accept About Yourself In Order To Love Yourself?

When you don’t, or can’t, acknowledge your feelings or accept something about yourself, it’s a sign that deep down, you don’t love yourself.

And if you don’t love yourself, you’ll never feel completely at peace with yourself and the world around you.

You’ll always find something to complain about, and the people in your life will always seem to be less than perfect, because YOU think you’re less than perfect.

Unless you can learn to love yourself, and accept yourself and your feelings, you’ll never be able to be fully loved by anyone else, either.

How This One Breakthrough Can Change Your Whole Life

There was a time in my life many years ago when I so badly wanted love and acceptance, but all I did was criticize my (ex) wife and accuse her of being nit-picky and too sensitive.

I had several other unhappy relationships in my 20s and 30s before I met Katie. I thought women were too critical and too obsessed with talking about feelings. I didn’t fully believe them when they said they loved me or wanted me to be happy.

The truth was, I was out of touch with my own feelings. I wasn’t “sensitive” enough to what my mind and heart wanted and needed. Therefore, I projected those unacknowledged aspects of myself onto others.

I was secretly judgmental.

It wasn’t until I had a major breakthrough in my life where I finally learned how to love myself that all that changed.

I met and fell in love with Katie, lost 100 pounds, and exploded my career.

I had discovered something transformational.

That’s why everything that Katie and I teach is rooted in the fundamental concept of loving yourself first.

And when you subscribe to receive our free relationship advice newsletter (below), you’ll understand exactly why so many relationship problems – even stubborn, long-standing ones – can finally be resolved when you learn to identify the underlying issues within yourself. You’ll learn:

  • The surefire way to know if you’re subconsciously perpetuating a pattern in your relationship – and what to do to dismantle it for good
  • How to feel completely appreciated for all that you are (your relationship will become a constant source of rejuvenation and inspiration)
  • The two big yet often hidden fears that can cause you to keep experiencing pain in relationships
  • The real reason you feel run-down and overextended in life and love – and how 10 minutes a week can help you feel recharged and in love again
  • How to share even the trickiest feelings in a way that won’t make your partner defensive – instead, they’ll want to listen more deeply to you

How Friendships Change in Adulthood

  CREATISTA / locrifa / Shutterstock / The Atlantic

CREATISTA / locrifa / Shutterstock / The Atlantic

In the hierarchy of relationships, friendships are at the bottom. Romantic partners, parents, children—all these come first.

This is true in life, and in science, where relationship research tends to focus on couples and families. When Emily Langan, an associate professor of communication at Wheaton College goes to conferences for the International Association of Relationship Researchers, she says, “friendship is the smallest cluster there. Sometimes it’s a panel, if that.”

Friendships are unique relationships because unlike family relationships, we choose to enter into them. And unlike other voluntary bonds, like marriages and romantic relationships, they lack a formal structure. You wouldn’t go months without speaking to or seeing your significant other (hopefully), but you might go that long without contacting a friend.

Still, survey upon survey upon survey shows how important people’s friends are to their happiness. And though friendships tend to change as people age, there is some consistency in what people want from them.

“I’ve listened to someone as young as 14 and someone as old as 100 talk about their close friends, and [there are] three expectations of a close friend that I hear people describing and valuing across the entire life course,” says William Rawlins, the Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University. “Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy. These expectations remain the same, but the circumstances under which they’re accomplished change.”

The voluntary nature of friendship makes it subject to life’s whims in a way more formal relationships aren’t. In adulthood, as people grow up and go away, friendships are the relationships most likely to take a hit. You’re stuck with your family, and you’ll prioritize your spouse. But where once you could run over to Jonny’s house at a moment’s notice and see if he could come out to play, now you have to ask Jonny if he has a couple hours to get a drink in two weeks.

The beautiful, special thing about friendship, that friends are friends because they want to be, that they choose each other, is “a double agent,” Langan says, “because I can choose to get in, and I can choose to get out.”

Throughout life, from grade school to the retirement home, friendship continues to confer health benefits, both mental and physical. But as life accelerates, people’s priorities and responsibilities shift, and friendships are affected, for better, or often, sadly, for worse.

* * *

The saga of adult friendship starts off well enough. “I think young adulthood is the golden age for forming friendships,” Rawlins says. “Especially for people who have the privilege and the blessing of being able to go to college.”

During young adulthood, friendships become more complex and meaningful. In childhood, friends are mostly other kids who are fun to play with; in adolescence, there’s a lot more self-disclosure and support between friends, but adolescents are still discovering their identity, and learning what it means to be intimate. Their friendships help them do that.

But, “in adolescence, people have a really tractable self,” Rawlins says. “They’ll change.” How many band t-shirts from Hot Topic end up sadly crumpled at the bottom of dresser drawers because the owners’ friends said the band was lame? The world may never know. By young adulthood, people are usually a little more secure in themselves, more likely to seek out friends who share their values on the important things, and let the little things be.

To go along with their newly sophisticated approach to friendship, young adults also have time to devote to their friends. According to the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, young adults often spend between 10 and 25 hours a week with friends, and the 2014 American Time Use Survey found that people between 20 and 24 years old spent the most time per day socializing on average of any age group.

College is an environment that facilitates this, with keggers and close quarters, but even young adults who don’t go to college are less likely to have some of the responsibilities that can take away from time with friends, like marriage, or caring for children or older parents.

Friendship networks are naturally denser, too, in youth, when most of the people you meet go to your school or live in your town. As people move for school, work, and family, networks spread out. Moving out of town for college gives some people their first taste of this distancing. In a longitudinal study that followed pairs of best friends over 19 years, a team led by Andrew Ledbetter, an associate professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University, found that participants had moved an average of 5.8 times during that period.

“I think that’s just kind of a part of life in the very mobile and high-level transportation- and communication-technology society that we have,” Ledbetter says. “We don’t think about how that’s damaging the social fabric of our lives.”

We aren’t obligated to our friends the way we are to our romantic partners, our jobs, and our families. We’ll be sad to go, but go we will. This is one of the inherent tensions of friendships, which Rawlins calls “the freedom to be independent and the freedom to be dependent.”

“Where are you situated?” Rawlins asks me, in the course of explaining this tension. Washington, D.C., I tell him.

“Where’d you go to college?”


“Okay, so you’re in Chicago, and you have close friends there. You say ‘Ah, I’ve got this great opportunity in Washington…’ and [your friend] goes ‘Julie, you gotta take that!’ [She’s] essentially saying ‘You’re free to go. Go there, do that, but if you need me I’ll be here for you.’”

I wish he wouldn’t use me as an example. It makes me sad.

As people enter middle age, they tend to have more demands on their time, many of them more pressing than friendship. After all, it’s easier to put off catching up with a friend than it is to skip your kid’s play or an important business trip. The ideal of people’s expectations for friendship is always in tension with the reality of their lives, Rawlins says.

“The real bittersweet aspect is young adulthood begins with all this time for friendship, and friendship just having this exuberant, profound importance for figuring out who you are and what’s next,” Rawlins says. “And you find at the end of young adulthood, now you don’t have time for the very people who helped you make all these decisions.”

The time is poured, largely, into jobs and families. Not everyone gets married or has kids, of course, but even those who stay single are likely to see their friendships affected by others’ couplings. “The largest drop-off in friends in the life course occurs when people get married,” Rawlins says. “And that’s kind of ironic, because at the [wedding], people invite both of their sets of friends, so it’s kind of this last wonderful and dramatic gathering of both people’s friends, but then it drops off.”

In a set of interviews he did in 1994 with middle-aged Americans about their friendships, Rawlins wrote that, “an almost tangible irony permeated these adults discussions of close or ‘real’ friendship.” They defined friendship as “being there” for each other, but reported that they rarely had time to spend with their most valued friends, whether because of circumstances, or through the age-old problem of good intentions and bad follow-through: “Friends who lived within striking distance of each other found that… scheduling opportunities to spend or share some time together was essential,” Rawlins writes. “Several mentioned, however, that these occasions often were talked about more than they were accomplished.”

As they move through life, people make and keep friends in different ways. Some are independent, they make friends wherever they go, and may have more friendly acquaintances than deep friendships. Others are discerning, meaning they have a few best friends they stay close with over the years, but the deep investment means that the loss of one of those friends would be devastating. The most flexible are the acquisitive—people who stay in touch with old friends, but continue to make new ones as they move through the world.

Rawlins says that any new friends people might make in middle age are likely to be grafted onto other kinds of relationships—as with co-workers, or parents of their children’s friends—because it’s easier for time-strapped adults to make friends when they already have an excuse to spend time together. As a result, the “making friends” skill can atrophy. “[In a study we did,] we asked people to tell us the story of the last person they became friends with, how they transitioned from acquaintance to friend,” Langan says. “It was interesting that people kind of struggled.”

* * *

But if you plot busyness across the life course, it makes a parabola.  The tasks that take up our time taper down in old age. Once people retire and their kids have grown up, there seems to be more time for the shared living kind of friendship again. People tend to reconnect with old friends they’ve lost touch with. And it seems more urgent to spend time with them—according to socioemotional selectivity theory, toward the end of life, people begin prioritizing experiences that will make them happiest in the moment, including spending time with close friends and family.

And some people do manage to stay friends for life, or at least for a sizable chunk of life. But what predicts who will last through the maelstrom of middle age and be there for the silver age of friendship?

Whether people hold onto their old friends or grow apart seems to come down to dedication and communication. In Ledbetter’s longitudinal study of best friends, the number of months that friends reported being close in 1983 predicted whether they were still close in 2002, suggesting that the more you’ve invested in a friendship already, the more likely you are to keep it going. Other research has found that people need to feel like they are getting as much out of the friendship as they are putting in, and that that equity can predict a friendship’s continued success.

Hanging out with a set of lifelong best friends can be annoying, because the years of inside jokes and references often make their communication unintelligible to outsiders. But this sort of shared language is part of what makes friendships last. In the longitudinal study, the researchers were also able to predict friends’ future closeness by how well they performed on a word-guessing game in 1983. (The game was similar to Taboo, in that one partner gave clues about a word without actually saying it, while the other guessed.)

“Such communication skill and mutual understanding may help friends successfully transition through life changes that threaten friendship stability,” the study reads. Friends don’t necessarily need to communicate often, or intricately, just similarly.

Of course, there are more ways than ever that people can communicate with friends, and media multiplexity theory suggests that the more platforms on which friends communicate—texting and emailing, sending each other funny Snapchats and links on Facebook, and seeing each other in person—the stronger their friendship is. “If we only have the Facebook tie, that’s probably a friendship that’s in greater jeopardy of not surviving into the future,” Ledbetter says.

Though you would think we would all know better by now than to draw a hard line between online relationships and “real” relationships, Langan says her students still use “real” to mean “in-person.”

There are four main levels of maintaining a relationship, and digital communication works better for some than for others. The first is just keeping a relationship alive at all, just to keep it in existence. Saying “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, faving a friend’s tweet—these are the life support machines of friendship. They keep it breathing, but mechanically.

Next is to keep a relationship at a stable level of closeness. “I think you can do that online too,” Langan says. “Because the platforms are broad enough in terms of being able to write a message, being able to send some support comments if necessary.” It’s sometimes possible to repair a relationship online, too, (another maintenance level) depending on how badly it was broken—getting back in touch with someone, or sending a heartfelt apology email.

“But then when you get to the next level, which is: Can I make it a satisfying relationship? That’s I think where the line starts to break down,” Langan says. “Because what happens often is people think of satisfying relationships as being more than an online presence.”

Social media makes it possible to maintain more friendships, but more shallowly. And it can also keep relationships on life support that would (and maybe should) otherwise have died out.

“The fact that Tommy, who I knew when I was five, is still on my Facebook feed is bizarre to me,” Langan says. “I don’t have any connection to Tommy’s current life, and going back 25 years ago, I wouldn’t. Tommy would be a memory to me. Like, I seriously have not seen Tommy in 35 years. Why would I care that Tommy’s son just got accepted to Notre Dame? Yay for him! He’s relatively a stranger to me. But in the current era of mediated relationships, those relationships never have to time out.”

By middle-age, people have likely accumulated many friends from different jobs, different cities, and different activities, who don’t know each other at all. These friendships fall into three categories: active, dormant, and commemorative. Friendships are active if you are in touch regularly, you could call on them for emotional support and it wouldn’t be weird, if you pretty much know what’s going on with their lives at this moment. A dormant friendship has history, maybe you haven’t talked in a while, but you still think of that person as a friend. You’d be happy to hear from them and if you were in their city, you’d definitely meet up.

A commemorative friend is not someone you expect to hear from, or see, maybe ever again. But they were important to you at an earlier time in your life, and you think of them fondly for that reason, and still consider them a friend.

Facebook makes things weird by keeping these friends continually in your peripheral vision. It violates what I’ll call the camp-friend rule of commemorative friendships: No matter how close you were with your best friend from summer camp, it is always awkward to try to stay in touch when school starts again. Because your camp self is not your school self, and it dilutes the magic of the memory a little to try to attempt a pale imitation at what you had.

The same goes for friends you only see online. If you never see your friends in person, you’re not really sharing experiences so much as just keeping each other updated on your separate lives. It becomes a relationship based on storytelling rather than shared living—not bad, just not the same.

“This is one thing I really want to tell you,” Rawlins says. “Friendships are always susceptible to circumstances. If you think of all the things we have to do—we haveto work, we have to take care of our kids, or our parents—friends choose to do things for each other, so we can put them off. They fall through the cracks.”

“Adults feel the need to be more polite in their friendships. So we stop expecting as much, which is kind of a sad thing.”

After young adulthood, he says, the reasons that friends stop being friends are usually circumstantial—due to things outside the relationship itself. One of the findings from Langan’s “friendship rules” study was that “adults feel the need to be more polite in their friendships,” she says. “We don't feel like, in adulthood, we can demand very much of our friends. It's unfair, they've got other stuff going on. So we stop expecting as much, which to me is kind of a sad thing, that we walk away from that.” For the sake of being polite.

But the things that make friendship fragile also make it flexible. Rawlins’ interviewees tended to think of their friendships as continuous, even if they went through long periods where they were out of touch. This is a fairly sunny view—you wouldn’t assume you were still on good terms with your parents if you hadn’t heard from them in months. But the default assumption with friends is that you’re still friends.

“That is how friendships continue, because people are living up to each other’s expectations. And if we have relaxed expectations for each other, or we’ve even suspended expectations, there’s a sense in which we realize that,” Rawlins says. “A summer when you’re 10, three months is one-thirtieth of your life. When you’re 30, what is it? It feels like the blink of an eye.”

Perhaps friends are more willing to forgive long lapses in communication because they’re feeling life’s velocity acutely too. It’s sad, sure, that we stop relying on our friends as much when we grow up, but it allows for a different kind of relationship, based on a mutual understanding of each other’s human limitations. It’s not ideal, but it’s real, as Rawlins might say. Friendship is a relationship with no strings attached except the ones you choose to tie, one that’s just about being there, as best as you can.

The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders

Originally posted on by Peter Gray Ph.D.Freedom to Learn

Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. Today, by at least some estimates, five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depressionand/or anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago. This increased psychopathology is not the result of changed diagnostic criteria; it holds even when the measures and criteria are constant.

The most recent evidence for the sharp generational rise in young people's depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders comes from a just-released study headed by Jean Twenge at San Diego State University.[1] Twenge and her colleagues took advantage of the fact that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a questionnaire used to assess a variety of mental disorders, has been given to large samples of college students throughout the United States going as far back as 1938, and the MMPI-A (the version used with younger adolescents) has been given to samples of high school students going as far back as 1951. The results are consistent with other studies, using a variety of indices, which also point to dramatic increases in anxiety and depression—in children as well as adolescents and young adults—over the last five or more decades.

We would like to think of history as progress, but if progress is measured in the mentalhealth and happiness of young people, then we have been going backward at least since the early 1950s.

The question I want to address here is why.

The increased psychopathology seems to have nothing to do with realistic dangers and uncertainties in the larger world. The changes do not correlate with economic cycles, wars, or any of the other kinds of world events that people often talk about as affecting children's mental states. Rates of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents were far lower during the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the turbulent 1960s and early ‘70s than they are today. The changes seem to have much more to do with the way young people view the world than with the way the world actually is.

Decline in Young People's Sense of Personal Control Over Their Fate

One thing we know about anxiety and depression is that they correlate significantly with people's sense of control or lack of control over their own lives. People who believe that they are in charge of their own fate are less likely to become anxious or depressed than those who believe that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control. You might think that the sense of personal control would have increased over the last several decades. Real progress has occurred in our ability to prevent and treat diseases; the old prejudices that limited people's options because of racegender, or sexual orientationhave diminished; and the average person is wealthier than in decades past. Yet the data indicate that young people's belief that they have control over their own destinies hasdeclined sharply over the decades.

The standard measure of sense of control is a questionnaire developed by Julien Rotter in the late 1950s called the Internal-External Locus of Control Scale. The questionnaire consists of 23 pairs of statements. One statement in each pair represents belief in anInternal locus of control (control by the person) and the other represents belief in anExternal locus of control (control by circumstances outside of the person). The person taking the test must decide which statement in each pair is more true. One pair, for example, is the following:

  • (a) I have found that what is going to happen will happen.
  • (b) Trusting to fate has never turned out as well for me as making a decision to take a definite course of action.

In this case, choice (a) represents an External locus of control and (b) represents an Internal locus of control.

Many studies over the years have shown that people who score toward the Internal end of Rotter's scale fare better in life than do those who score toward the External end.[2] They are more likely to get good jobs that they enjoy, take care of their health, and play active roles in their communities—and they are less likely to become anxious or depressed.

In a research study published a few years ago, Twenge and her colleagues analyzed the results of many previous studies that used Rotter's Scale with young people from 1960 through 2002.[3] They found that over this period average scores shifted dramatically—for children aged 9 to 14 as well as for college students—away from the Internal toward the External end of the scale. In fact, the shift was so great that the average young person in 2002 was more External than were 80% of young people in the 1960s. The rise in Externality on Rotter's scale over the 42-year period showed the same linear trend as did the rise in depression and anxiety.  

[Correction: The locus of control data used by Twenge and her colleagues for children age 9 to 14 came from the Nowicki-Strickland Scale, developed by Bonnie Strickland and Steve Nowicki, not from the Rotter Scale. Their scale is similar to Rotter's, but modified for use with children.]

It is reasonable to suggest that the rise of Externality (and decline of Internality) is causally related to the rise in anxiety and depression. When people believe that they have little or no control over their fate they become anxious: "Something terrible can happen to me at any time and I will be unable to do anything about it." When the anxiety and sense of helplessness become too great people become depressed: "There is no use trying; I'm doomed."

Shift Toward Extrinsic Goals, Away From Intrinsic Goals

Twenge's own theory is that the generational increases in anxiety and depression are related to a shift from "intrinsic" to "extrinsic" goals.[1] Intrinsic goals are those that have to do with one's own development as a person—such as becoming competent in endeavors of one's choosing and developing a meaningful philosophy of life. Extrinsic goals, on the other hand, are those that have to do with material rewards and other people's judgments. They include goals of high income, status, and good looks. Twenge cites evidence that young people today are, on average, more oriented toward extrinsic goals and lessoriented toward intrinsic goals than they were in the past. For example, a annual poll of college freshmen shows that most students today list "being well off financially" as more important to them than "developing a meaningful philosophy of life"—the reverse was true in the 1960s and 1970s.[4]

The shift toward extrinsic goals could well be related causally to the shift toward an External locus of control. We have much less personal control over achievement of extrinsic goals than intrinsic goals. I can, through personal effort, quite definitely improve my competence, but that doesn't guarantee that I'll get rich. I can, through spiritualpractices or philosophical delving, find my own sense of meaning in life, but that doesn't guarantee that people will find me more attractive or lavish praise on me. To the extent that my emotional sense of satisfaction comes from progress toward intrinsic goals I can control my emotional wellbeing. To the extent that my satisfaction comes from others' judgments and rewards, I have much less control over my emotional state.

Twenge suggests that the shift from intrinsic to extrinsic goals represents a general shift toward a culture of materialism, transmitted through television and other media. Young people are exposed from birth to advertisements and other messages implying that happiness depends on good looks, popularity, and material goods. My guess is that Twenge is at least partly correct on this, but I will suggest a further cause, which I think is even more significant and basic: My hypothesis is that the generational increases in Externality, extrinsic goals, anxiety, and depression are all caused largely by the decline, over that same period, in opportunities for free play and the increased time and weight given to schooling.

How the Decline of Free Play May Have Caused a Decline in Sense of Control and in Intrinsic Goals, and a Rise in Anxiety and Depression

As I pointed out here and here—and as others have pointed out in recent popular books[5]—children's freedom to play and explore on their own, independent of direct adult guidance and direction, has declined greatly in recent decades. Free play and exploration are, historically, the means by which children learn to solve their own problems, control their own lives, develop their own interests, and become competent in pursuit of their own interests. This has been the theme of many of my previous posts. (See, for example, the series of posts on "The Value of Play.") In fact, play, by definition, is activity controlled and directed by the players; and play, by definition, is directed toward intrinsic rather than extrinsic goals

By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the odds that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders.

How Coercive Schooling Deprives Young People of Personal Control, Directs Them Toward Extrinsic Goals, and Promotes Anxiety and Depression

During the same half-century or more that free play has declined, school and school-like activities (such as lessons out of school and adult-directed sports) have risen continuously in prominence. Children today spend more hours per day, days per year, and years of their life in school than ever before. More weight is given to tests and grades than ever. Outside of school, children spend more time than ever in settings in which they are directed, protected, catered to, ranked, judged, and rewarded by adults. In all of these settings adults are in control, not children.

In school, children learn quickly that their own choices of activities and their own judgments of competence don't count; what matters are the teachers' choices and judgments. Teachers are not entirely predictable: You may study hard and still get a poor grade because you didn't figure out exactly what the teacher wanted you to study or guess correctly what questions he or she would ask. The goal in class, in the minds of the great majority of students, is not competence but good grades. Given a choice between really learning a subject and getting an A, the great majority of students would, without hesitation, pick the latter. That is true at every stage in the educational process, at least up to the level of graduate school. That's not the fault of students; that's our fault. We've set it up that way. Our system of constant testing and evaluation in school—which becomes increasingly intense with every passing year—is a system that very clearly substitutes extrinsic rewards and goals for intrinsic ones. It is almost designed to produce anxiety and depression.[6]

School is also a place where children have little choice about with whom they can associate. They are herded into spaces filled with other children that they did not choose, and they must spend a good portion of each school day in those spaces. In free play, children who feel harassed or bullied can leave the situation and find another group that is more compatible; in school they cannot. Whether the bullies are other students or teachers (which is all too common), the child usually has no choice but to face those persons day after day.

The results are sometimes disastrous.

A few years ago, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeremy Hunter conducted a study of happiness and unhappiness in public school students in 6th through 12th grade.[7] Each of 828 participants, from 33 different schools in 12 different communities across the country, wore a special wristwatch for a week, programmed to provide a signal at random times between 7:30 am and 10:30 pm. Whenever the signal went off participants filled out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment.

The lowest levels of happiness by far (surprise, surprise) occurred when children were at school, and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school and conversing or playing with friends. Time spent with parents fell in the middle of the range. Average happiness increased on weekends, but then plummeted from late Sunday afternoon through the evening, in anticipation of the coming school week.

As a society we have come to the conclusion that children must spend increasing amounts of time in the very setting where they least want to be. The cost of that belief, as measured by the happiness and mental health of our children, is enormous.

It is time to re-think education.

Another Way

Anyone who looks honestly at the experiences of students at Sudbury model democratic schools and of unschoolers—where freedom, play, and self-directed exploration prevail—knows that there is another way. We don't need to drive kids crazy to educate them. Given freedom and opportunity, without coercion, young people educate themselves. They do so joyfully, and in the process develop intrinsic values, personal self-control, and emotional wellbeing. That's the overriding message of the whole series of essays in this blog. It's time for society to take an honest look.


Why You Can't Stop Flirting With a Married Man: 5 Tips to Navigate Your Emotions

Originally posted on VivaLa by Breonna Rodriguez Vivala Creator

When it comes to flirting with a committed person, you should know that you probably are getting a more comfortable version of that person.

So you’ve been flirting with a married guy at work. Maybe it’s just the occasional, casual smile or a little shimmy in your pencil skirt when you walk by his office. Casual flirting is a totally normal way for people to playfully explore the depths of their personalities. So long as it upholds the golden rule of respecting each other's boundaries — a little fun interaction is nothing to bat a lash extension at. 

However, maybe a handful of jokes have turned into coffee dates at three every day. Or text threads are starting to build long after office hours. And with the holiday season coming up, maybe you're starting to hope that with just enough tequila shots, and a quick trip to the coat room you’ll finally give those lips something to do (other than give awkward smiles).

Related From Vivala: The Online Dating Tip All Men Need

It’s a tricky thing, flirting with a married man. The rules of attraction can sometimes be a little unorganized. But if you are in this sort of pickle and you need a clear way to define what you are doing, I sat down with life coach and hypnotherapist Alexandra Janelli from Theta Spring to see how you can wager your chances for love and make some concrete decisions about your complicated romance.


  • Know this is probably more normal than it is super special.


The most important aspect of this attraction, Janelli says, is to recognize that it’s totally normal. “Of course you’d be attracted to people in the workplace,” she says. “You are with them all the time. Life is about connections and when you are working on projects with people and spending that much time with them, why would you not begin to start to develop feelings?” So remember that. The odds of having the feels are logically stacked in your favor. But recognize that odds are a not facts and you still have a lot more calculating to do, such as . . . . 

Related From Vivala: Diving Into Dating as a Lesbian


  • Identify what this is doing for you.


It’s always nice to have another male fan — someone who reminds you that you’re smart, talented, and hella sexy. However, looking at how much you value this input is important.

She insists on connecting to what’s going on with you first. “Ask what is it about that person when you are with them, that you are really valuing? Is it the communication? Is it the touching? Is the deep conversations you are having? Really ask yourself what is it about the experience that this person is providing for you?”

By knowing this, she suggests you can then give yourself the tools to decipher between being attracted to someone or just identifying something that’s missing in your relationship with yourself.


  • Get realistic.


When it comes to flirting with a committed person, “You should know that you probably are getting a more comfortable version of that person,” she warns. “Because they have securities on both ends. So you will almost always get the best version of them.” So be aware of the blurred reality. “There’s not a lot of insecurities, if it doesn’t work out with that person,” she says, “ Because there is already someone else to fall back on.” 


  • Know your own values and get real.


Janelli does not judge the potential of meaningful relationships coming out of unconventional circumstances. However, to pull yourself out of haze of this flirting conundrum, she suggests to ask yourself, “What is it that I value in a relationship? Maybe it's trust — and if I knew this person was cheating on their relationship with their significant other, is this how I want to enter a relationship with somebody else?” 

She also suggests to play the relationship out fully in your mind. Move beyond the fantasy of finally kissing this upcoming holiday party and look at the picture down the road. For instance, if he leaves his partner for you, “Ask yourself if you are ready to switch from the person that they have fun with and love and into a support system as they go through a break-up and divorce? Think to the next level. Playing out the full scenario. Get realistic.”


  • Give yourself options.


So what if the flirting has gone too far? Maybe you really did just like someone saying you’re pretty. Maybe you don’t want to be a part of a decision that will break up a marriage or a family, because despite how fun it feels, it doesn’t actually sync with your values and dreams. How do you move on, within the confines of an office space when you really need to keep that check coming?

Janelli insists on finding the big picture. “Look at it objectively and deal with the facts. Can you change companies? Or departments. Maybe it’s holding tight to your values, like ‘I’m not the person who wants to be [with] the cheater. Take the emotions out of it. Really ask yourself, if the emotions weren’t there, how would you behave differently at the office?” 

What do you think? Have you ever taken flirting with a married man too far at work? Do we judge each other too hard when we should be asking ourselves deeper questions instead? Let me know your take below.

Here’s What No One Tells You About Having Both Depression And Anxiety

Originally posted on Buzz Feed by Anna Borges

Caring both too much and not at all means never winning.

[Editor’s note: Anxiety and depression affect everyone differently — but dealing with both is extremely common. Nearly one-half of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety and depression are deeply personal, and although this list represents only one experience, we hope you find some solace in knowing others might be going through what you are.]

  Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

1. It’s freaking out at the idea of getting anything less than a stellar score on a test, but not having the energy to study.

2. It’s having to stay in bed because you don’t have the will to move, but unraveling at the thought of what will happen if you miss school or work.

3. It’s feeling more tired the less you move, but your heart racing at the thought of taking the first step.

4. It’s getting more tightly wound the more mess piles up, but only staring at it and thinking, I’ll clean tomorrow.

5. It’s making six million to-do lists just to untangle your thoughts, but knowing you’ll never actually cross anything off.

6. It’s believing that every canceled plan will end your friendships, but not having it in you to follow through.

7. It’s feeling hopelessly low that you’re still goddamn single, but canceling every first date because the thought of going through with it gives you heart palpitations.

8. It’s fearing every day that your partner will get fed up and leave, but your anxiety whispering in your ear that they deserve better and should.

9. It’s ignoring texts and turning down invitations, and it’s aching when the texts and invitations stop.

10. It’s the constant fear of winding up alone, but accidentally isolating yourself because you sometimes just need to hide from it all.

11. It’s wanting nothing more than to crawl home and sleep at 2 p.m., but your skittering, panicked pulse keeping you awake at 2 a.m.

12. It’s alternating between feeling paralyzed in the present and scared shitless about the future.

13. It’s not enjoying the good days because you’re too gripped by the anxiety that the next low is around the corner.

14. It’s sleeping too much or not at all.

15. It’s needing a break from your racing thoughts, but not being able to climb out of the pit of yourself.

16. It’s needing to do everything, but wanting to do nothing at all.

17. It’s coping mechanisms and escapism, because when you’re not trying to hide from one part of your brain, you’re hiding from the other.

18. It’s wondering if the things that are making your heart feel heavy are things your anxious mind just made up.

19. It’s sitting awake at 3 a.m. worrying about a future you’re not even sure you want to have.

20. It’s feeling too much and nothing at all at the same time, which means feeling like you can never win.

But you can. And you will. You’re not alone.

To learn more about depression and anxiety, check out the resources at the National Institute of Mental Health here and here.

If you are dealing with thoughts of suicide, you can speak to someone immediately here or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which you can reach at 1-800-273-8255.

Annoyed by Loud Chewing? The Problem Is You

Originally posted on the WallStreetJournal and written by Elizabeth Bernstein

If a loved one’s lip smacking bothers you, you need to learn to cope, therapists say; Don’t try to change a chewer


Christine Robinson was looking forward to a date night with her husband, Robert. She grilled flatbread veggie pizza, opened a bottle of Cabernet and lighted some candles.

Her husband took a sip of wine, swished it around in his mouth, then bit off the triangle tip of a pizza slice with a crunch. “The mix between the crispiness of the crust, the chewiness of the toppings and the slurping of the wine is what did it,” Ms. Robinson says.

She got up and turned on some classical music. But she could still hear his chewing. She turned the music up. That didn’t help. Then she asked her husband, “Please, slow down and enjoy the food.”

He snapped. “I am sorry I disgust you so much that we can’t even be in the same room together,” he told her, and stormed off.

If you can’t stand the sound of someone’s chewing, does that person need to close his or her mouth? Or do you?

Christine Robinson sometimes wears headphones when watching television with her husband Robert because they help block out the sound of him chewing popcorn. 

Experts say you do. Yes, some people have bad manners. But you can’t make everyone else change the way they eat just because it bothers you.

People who have an extreme aversion to specific noises—most often “mouth sounds” such as chewing or lip-smacking, but also noises such as foot-tapping, pen-clicking or sniffing—suffer from a condition called misophonia. While many people find some everyday sounds annoying, misophonia—in which the sensitivity disrupts a person’s life—may affect up to 20% of the population, researchers say.

There is a current debate among physicians whether it should be a psychiatric disorder. A documentary film that features people with the condition, “Quiet Please...,” arrives next summer.

A study of 483 people, published in October 2014, in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, found that misophonia sufferers say their lives are most impaired by their sensitivity to eating sounds at work and at school and least impaired at home. The researchers believe this is because family members might be more likely to adapt to a person’s sensitivity than colleagues, says Monica Wu, a clinical psychology graduate student at the University of South Florida in Tampa and the lead researcher on the study.

People who have misophonia often have symptoms of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression, although the researchers don't know if one causes the other, the study found. Experts theorize that misophonia may be caused, in part, by enhanced neural connections in the brain between the auditory, limbic and autonomic systems.

There are people who can’t watch movies in theaters because of popcorn crunching, stand in line at a store because of gum snapping, or be around their family when any kind of soup is being served. Everyone has an opinion about which foods (chips!), meals (breakfast!) and culprits (co-workers and spouses!) produce the worst noises.

Ms. Robinson, a 49-year-old part-time chief financial officer from Mission Hills, Kan., first realized that she couldn’t stand her husband’s chewing sounds 20 years ago, when the couple was dating and began to eat more meals at home where it was quieter.

Over the years, she has tried all sorts of coping methods: Turning up jazz music. Wearing headphones. Banning cereal from the house. Skipping family breakfasts. Sticking her fingers in her ears and humming “la la la la la.” Leaving the room. She estimates she has missed hundreds of meals over the years. But she still has arguments with family members over their crunching, snapping and slurping. One of her daughters is supersensitive to chewing sounds now, too.

Ms. Robinson is bothered by the chewing of others, not just her husband. Though she hasn’t been diagnosed by a doctor, she says she is aware of misophonia and feels solace knowing she’s not alone.

When she offended her husband on their date night, Ms. Robinson ran after him and told him, yet again: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

“I suspect it’s like living with anyone who has a disability,” says Mr. Robinson, 53, who sells software for a technology company. “I have to respect that if I want to spend quality time with my family.”

The experts are clear: The person who is annoyed by the sounds is the one who needs to change and learn coping skills. If others accommodate you by changing the way they eat, they are only enabling you.

It is never a good idea to tell someone else their chewing is bugging you. Joe Eure, 63, a sales manager for a telecommunications technology company from East Cobb, Ga., learned this the hard way, when he turned to a man behind him in a movie theater and said “Excuse me, I don’t know if you are aware, but your popcorn chewing is really loud. Can you just kind of tone it down?”

“He told me to buzz off, using different words,” Mr. Eure says. Then he chewed even louder. Now when Mr. Eure walks into a theater, he steers clear of anyone with popcorn. He also buys his own popcorn which he chews with his mouth closed to drown out other sounds.

Don’t run away. You should avoid “temporary Band-Aids,” says Ms. Wu, of the University of South Florida. If you always put on headphones or move to another room, you aren’t fully participating in the relationship. The idea is to learn to tolerate the symptoms.

Tell yourself that it isn’t the other person’s fault. And that you want to be able to eat with your loved one, she says.

A form of cognitive behavioral therapy, called “exposure and response prevention,” has been shown to be effective for misophonia sufferers. The client is exposed to chewing sounds gradually—first on a tape, then from a stranger in the room and finally from his or her loved one. “After repeated exposure, they see they can tolerate it,” Ms. Wu says.

Chester Goad hates the sound of ice and chip crunching so much that he sometimes leaves the room when his family is eating and tells them to text him when they are done. He has also thrown bags of chips away when no one is looking.

When he goes on business trips, his wife and son hold “crunch fests”—they load up on chips, pretzels and ice-filled drinks, turn the TV and munch away. Often, his son will call him via FaceTime and bite into a chip loudly, on purpose. “It’s a way for them to deal with the situation,” says Mr. Goad, 43, director of disability services for a university who lives in Crossville, Tenn. “And because I am separated from the crunching I can kind of chuckle.”


Empath Traits: 22 Signs You Are A Highly Sensitive Person

Originally posted on     By Barrie Davenport 


If you are an empath, you’ve likely known for some time you are different from most people around you. You’ve probably been accused of being too sensitive or overly emotional your whole life. As a child, you may have had a hard time adjusting to new  situations. You may have cried easily, had unusually deep thoughts, or asked out-of-the-ordinary questions.

You may even believe there’s something wrong with you or that you have some kind of emotional disorder. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Being an empath isn’t something shameful or even very unusual. According to research conducted by Elaine Aron, PhD, a psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York, 20% of the population are genetically predisposed to be more aware and empathic.

She and her research team have found physical evidence in the brain that empaths respond especially strongly to certain situations that trigger emotions. Says Dr. Aron, “We found that areas of the brain involved with awareness and emotion, particularly those areas connected with empathetic feelings, in the highly sensitive people showed substantially greater blood flow to relevant brain areas than was seen in individuals with low sensitivity during the 12-second period when they viewed the photos [of happy and sad faces].”

Being an empath is not a disorder — it is an innate quality you should never feel shameful about. Although some of the traits of empaths make it more difficult to operate in a world dominated by less sensitive people, there are many positive aspects of being an empath. Says Dr. Judith Orloff in her New York Times bestseller, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, “Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually attuned, and good listeners. If you want heart, empaths have got it. Through thick and thin, they’re there for you, world-class nurturers.”

Empaths feel positive, loving emotions deeply and appreciate the subtitles of beauty, art, and music. They flourish in calm, loving, and peaceful environments. On the flip side, however, empaths feel all emotions keenly — even negative emotions. Says Dr. Orloff, they are so in-tune to other’s negative feelings they become “angst-sucking sponges.” As a result, they are vulnerable to emotional abusers who want to use and manipulate them. Stressful situations and people overwhelm them and often trigger serious issues like depression, anxiety, weight gain, and addictions.

Here are 22 empath traits that might suggest you are a highly sensitive person:

1. People point it out

You’ve been told all your life you are too sensitive, overly emotional, or wear your heart on your sleeve. People tell you that you pick up on cues or feelings they don’t even notice.

2. You feel other’s feelings

You’ve noticed how sensitive you are to the emotions of others. Even before they tell you how they are feeling, you already know. You can enter a room and have a sense of the general mood of the environment.

3. Negativity overwhelms you

Where others can tolerate raised voices, conflict, or anger, it sends you over the edge. You almost feel physically sick or in pain as a result of the negative energy around you. You crave peace and calm.

4. Being in crowded places overwhelms you

You don’t like being in malls, sporting events, airports or other public places with crowds of people. You feel suffocated and overly-excited. You can’t wait to leave.

5. Strong intuition

You seem to know things without being told. You sense what needs to be done or what’s about to happen. Your gut feelings nearly always prove to be correct.

6. Pain intolerance

More than others you know, you have a lower threshold for pain tolerance. You can’t stand getting shots, feeling nauseated, or dealing with a minor injury. You may even have had a doctor tell you to stop complaining so much.

7. You must have alone time

You need time every day with no sensory input. You want to withdraw to your room or another quiet place to recharge.

8. You avoid negative media images

You find it extremely disturbing to watch or read about tragic news events or see unpleasant images. It bothers you so much, you avoid looking at these images at all costs.

9. You can easily tell when someone is lying

All you need to do is look at their faces or listen to their tone of voice, and you know instantly whether or not they are telling the truth.

10. You are more sensitive to stimulants/medications

Caffeine in particular makes you more anxious and agitated than the average person. You can never drink caffeine in the evening if you want to sleep. You often have reactions or side effects to medications.

11. You often show up with the symptoms of those around you

If someone close to you is sick or depressed, you will develop the same ailments.

12. You frequently have lower back and digestive problems

These are the result of dealing with negative and stressful situations and people. Your feelings show up as these physical symptoms.

13. You are the dumping ground for the problems of others

People around you seem to gravitate toward you and unload all of their pain and problems on you. Because you are an empath, you feel compelled to help, even to your own detriment.

14. You often feel fatigued

Because others take so much from you, you often feel drained of energy and extremely tired. You might even have chronic fatigue syndrome.

15. You have a very vibrant inner life

You are highly creative, imaginative, and loving. You may be involved in the arts or other creative pursuits. You feel close to animals and especially enjoy your relationship with your pets.

16. You are sensitive to sounds and sensory feelings

Loud noises or sudden dramatic movements startle you. You also feel overwhelmed by bright lights, rough fabrics, and strong smells. You also notice very delicate smells, touch, and sounds.

17. You don’t like too many things at once

When you have to multi-task or have too much coming at you at once, you feel rattled and overwhelmed.

18. You manage your environment

You create your living and working environment to accommodate your sensitivities. You arrange your schedule and commitments to avoid unpleasant, chaotic, or overly stimulating situations.

19. You don’t like narcissists

You are particularly bothered by people who put themselves first all the time and aren’t sensitive to the feelings of others.  You may even believe there’s something wrong with you or that you have some kind of emotional disorder.

20. You can almost feel the days of the week

Each day of the week has a specific “feel” to it. You notice when a Wednesday feels like a Saturday. You feel particularly heavy at the start of the work week. Even months and seasons have a particular feel.

21. You are a great listener

People tell you this all the time. You listen consciously and know the right questions and comments to draw people out and make them feel heard.

22. You get bored easily

As an empath, you need to focus on work and activities that stimulate your creativity and passion. If you get bored, you resort to daydreaming, doodling, etc. However, you are still very conscientious and try hard to avoid making mistakes.



If you are an empath, know that you have an ability to use your sensitivity for your own good and the good of others. To protect yourself, mindfully manage your environment and screen out people who drain you or take advantage of your sensitive nature. Acknowledge that you have the benefit of feeling positive experiences more profoundly, and accept that your reactions to pain, anger, stimulation are normal — but not universally understood.

You are certainly not alone as an empath. A fifth of the population understands you completely and appreciates your special characteristics. People who aren’t highly sensitive can appreciate your unique qualities if you share this information with them. If you are reading this, and you aren’t an empath, perhaps you recognize these traits in someone you know and love. It is through understanding and awareness that empaths and non-empaths can live and work together in mutually supportive and thoughtful ways.


Stop Negative Self-Talk: The Power of Reframing

written by Alexandra Janelli

Have you ever taken a moment to think about the way you talk to yourself verse the way you speak to others? How is it that we can be more compassionate,  respectful, and empathetic to others, and yet treat ourselves so poorly. We go to great lengths to help a friend, but when it comes to helping ourselves when faced with a challenge, failure, or an emotion, we are quick to put ourselves down. 

The fact is, we all do this at one time or another. This is not abnormal. 

Negative self-talk is common. In many ways, it is the default wiring of our brains. Why? Well, because we wired it this way without even knowing it.  But what if you can begin to rewire the way you think? What would it be like to think more positively, overcome emotions, and have more confidence in your abilities to overcome challenges?


We all have negative self-talk. In fact for many people it sounds like this:

I can't do this right
I am not good enough
I should lose weight 
have to do X, Y, Z
If I could just do this then I would be happy
I don't know how to do this
I will TRY to save money

Our inner gremlins can be very loud and even cause us times of emotional trauma. If we talked to our friends the way we talk to ourselves, we would no doubt be called abusive.

However, language originates from thoughts and/or feelings, which then leads to actions or inactions in our lives. The way in which we talk to ourselves produces energy that either boosts us up (anabolic) or brings us down (catabolic). Lets discuss:

There are two types of energy 1) Anabolic and 2) Catabolic. Both are very useful at different times, but the way in which they can present and effect us in our lives in rather drastic. 

Catabolic energy is a destructive. It breaks down cells, and it breaks down people.  (This can be positive if a lion is chasing you and you need energy broken down from the body. however, it is mainly not a great thing in daily life. All of our negative thoughts are catabolic. Catabolic energy helps us play the victim rather than a person of action who gets results.  Unless we make an effort to release catabolic energy, it keeps us in unhealthy patterns and stops us from realizing our full potential.

Anabolic energy is creative. It builds cells and helps people grow. Anabolic energy heals and enables us to see things the way they are, which is neither good nor bad, but rather experience that help us learn and better ourselves. It enables us to feel joy and realize our potential. A natural state of our body is anabolic.

Here are some examples of what Anabolic verse Catabolic language :


Should, might
Need to
Have to
Always, Never
I Think


Choose, desire, want
It's important to me...
Desire to...
Am not willing to, chose not to
Intend, aim to
Yes, I will/No, I won't
I know/I don't know

In order to change the energy around how you speak to yourself, you need to reframe what you are saying.  For example:

"I will try to get to the gym to lose weight" (catabolic)
"Going to the gym is important to me, I will go to the gym" (anabolic)

** the word try already hints at it wont happen. Why shoot yourself down before you even begin. There is much more power behind, I WILL then I will TRY.



The first step to any change is having an awareness of how you are speaking to yourself. The more you can see the pattern of when and how you speak to yourself the more you will be able to take control and implement a reframe

When you notice you are implementing negative self talk, ask yourself 'how does this talk make me feel?' Is that how you want to feel?

When you realize the emotion behind the self-talk,  ask yourself, what action (or inaction) am I taking, and how is this serving me in moving me toward my goal? ** remember, even inaction is an action. Its a choice to do nothing. However, it doesn't move your forward. 

If your actions are not serving you. This is time for a REFRAME:

Reframe the statement you are making to yourself. When you reframe it, what emotional energy does it bring? What action will you take with the increase in energy? Does that energy and action serve you better or worse then the negative self talk?


The more that you practice the better you will become. You will see you energy levels and motivation increasing too! Remember, you wont do this all the time! AND THATS OK! The more often that you can allow yourself to do it though, the shorter your times of struggle and self-abuse will last. By shifting your energy, you can change the way you feel to a more positive state! 


In conjunction with framing, Theta Spring Hypnosis recommends trying the following digital recording for positive thinking:

Glass half empty or half full? 

When you change the way you think you can change the way you feel. The glass can be half empty or half full, but wouldn't it be a relief to see things in a positive light? 

This recording helps you put change and negative energy and thoughts into a new perspective. Thereby, allowing you to feel lighter and brighter and stronger to handle the challenges that are presented to you every day. 

By living who you want to be each and every day, you will begin to fulfill your full potential and have the Law of Positivity on your side. 

Put Down The Glass of Water: a metaphor for pain tollerance

(Courtesy of Jimmy Harmon)

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."

Remember to put the glass down.


A Wearable that Tracks Breathing and Induces Mindfulness, Focus & Calmness

At Theta Spring we are always looking for ways to help clients be more mindful of their relaxation, breathing, and patterns. We were inspired with this new product! 

Learn More at 

We think this is a great tool for any client, and especially our anxious ones! 

This is Spire. By measuring your breathing patterns throughout the day, it can notify you when you're tense, guide you to greater calm, and help you discover what makes you focused.

Each week, Spire eliminates over a 1 million moments of tension. Our customers report that Spire reduces fatigue and headaches, increases calm and productivity and enables a healthier and more mindful day.

Based on 7 years of research into the Science of Breath.

Studies have shown how simply controlling our breathing can lower blood pressure, reduce tension and increase endorphins. Spire measures respiratory patterns to detect subtle changes in your state of mind and then guides you to regain calm and focus.

Spire is the first wearable that actually measure something relevant to my wellbeing rather than just my activity.

All day tracking
Continuously measures inhalation & exhalation times, breath rate, deep breaths, apneaic events, steps and calories. Analyzes breathing patterns to infer state of mind (tense, calm, focus).

The Connection Between Self-Discipline and Success

I want to bring together a couple of disparate ideas, some spiritual, some scientific, some empirical. By the end of this post I hope to have inspired you to consider meditation as a way of tapping into more fulfillment in your life. What’s covered:

-      Instant Gratification
-      Success (Happiness / Fulfillment)
-      Pre-frontal cortex & reptilian brain
-      Meditation practice
-      The Spiritual Third Eye (inspiration, clarity of thought, creativity)
-      Changing the world
-      Desire 

Approximately 40 years of Stanford research found that children with the ability to delay their gratification go on to become more successful later on in life. According to the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, a positive correlation exists between delaying gratification and better life outcomes, including higher SAT scores, better education / degree attainment, lower weight / body mass index (BMI), etc.

Let me define self-discipline as the ability to assess second, third, or even fourth order consequences of any given action. Here is an example:

I want to lose weight. I decide to go to the gym and go on a diet.

In the first order of consequence I feel pain while working out, and I feel lack when I skip dessert. But because I know that as a second level consequence I will have a hot body, I am okay with delaying my gratification, which would otherwise have me sitting on the couch eating marshmallows.

Self-discipline, controlled by the pre-frontal cortex, is the same part of our brain that distinguishes us from our ape cousins. It is involved in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. Without getting into the details of why we evolved past apes, let’s just say some of us have come farther than others (i.e. some people are innately more self-disciplined than others, and thus (innately) more successful in life). This may sound unfortunate to you if you’re bad at self-restraint, but I have some good news: impulse control can be cultivated. And comes with other perks.

If you’re wondering which part of the brain makes us dart for the marshmallow, it’s commonly referred to as the reptilian brain. This part of the brain represents our reactive, instinctual nature. It flips out when something happens that we don’t like, or that threatens us. Often these threats are to our ego nature, like our pride, but they can be physical threats as well (a tiger is chasing me, or I’m running out of money). In the case of an individual with PTSD, the reptilian brain becomes locked in an overactive state, leading to a flurry of anxiety or other cognitive or physical maladies.

I’ve long known that impulse control and self-discipline are helpful to me personally towards manifesting “good things.” What I didn’t know was there was a method by which I could turn down the reptilian brain that makes me do stupid, reactive things, while simultaneously strengthening the pre-frontal cortex, the part of my brain that helps me see second and third order consequences. The method I am referring to is meditation, for myself, Transcendental Meditation (TM) in particular (although I am a student of a few forms of meditation and spiritual practice).

During meditation, the pre-frontal cortex becomes stimulated and therewith the over-active reptilian (impulsive) brain is subdued. Tremendously helpful not only to those with PTSD, meditation is beneficial to new meditators as well. While the meditating does not cause impulsiveness to be erased, those feelings weaken and become less likely to overwhelm the person. In so doing, meditating lowers stress levels, improves cognitive functioning, creative thinking and productivity, and even improves physical health (measurably). This might explain why many world and corporate leaders turn to meditation. Or, perhaps, why an individual with a well-developed pre-frontal cortex might become a world leader.

Of note, this same prefrontal cortex, which plays a key role in abstract thinking, making predictions, and in planning, was unusually elaborate in the brain of Albert Einstein, revealing clues to his genius and is perhaps what helped the physicist develop the theory of relativity.

Not coincidentally, in many spiritual traditions, the third eye, also associated with the pre-frontal cortex, is described as our ability to “see beyond;” to see beyond the five senses.  From a spiritual perspective, mystics have taught through the ages that our ability to be still / not react with impulse, is how we can draw to ourselves divine inspiration and creativity. Meaning, when we delay grabbing the light of immediate gratification, we can open ourselves up to greater light, to the big picture, or the end state. I can tap into information that is beyond me. This is where innovation comes from, the wellspring from where new creative ideas that change the world come from. More practically, this is how I can see within one month that I am with the wrong partner, vs. sleeping with them and figuring it out in ten. Just. By. Delaying. My. Gratification.

“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.” That’s what Ray Dalio, the self-made billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates — the world’s largest hedge fund — explained in 2012.

Some of the most successful people practice meditation: Oprah Winfrey, Ray Dalio, Arianna Huffington, David Lynch, Russell Simmons, and on, and on.

Therefore, if you want to change the world (or simply be happier, whatever you’re into), you’ll need to see beyond what is in front of you. To see beyond, you’ll need to get in control of your impulses. Can’t control your impulses? Start meditating! The more you strengthen your third-eye/pre-frontal cortex, the more self-disciplined you’ll become and the more you’ll be able to connect to the bigger picture, the world beyond your eyes. From this space you can see more truth, draw creativity, knowing, and divine guidance that is beyond you, beyond your five-senses alone. All of this delivers the experience of greater fulfillment.

I wanted to depict what this looks like visually. I Googled it but struggled to find a single image of what I believe life to be like. So I drew it myself. Here’s what I believe it looks like on paper:

For A Guided Meditation Theta Spring Has Provided This Recording Below:

for more recordings please visit our STORE

The straight line is our inner GPS, helping us ascend to our highest expression of self. The squiggly line represents the ups and downs of life: I lost my job, I got married, I had a baby, I got divorced, I lost an investment, I bought a Porsche, etc. In those ups and downs we get reactive and those reactions create impulses in us that cause us to look for instant gratification. The more we are able to delay gratification in those moments, to keep our reactive reptile in check, the higher up the spiritual ladder of self we can ascend.

This image can be used in any context (how to be successful in a relationship, in business, in health, as an entrepreneur, etc). Just change the title of this photo from “life” to “business.” It’s still the same formula. For a billionaire, imagine one of those big dips is bankruptcy (it happened to Donald Trump). He had a choice: continue going up, or give up? Well, we know what happened to the Donald.

As we choose to ascend up our own path, we ultimately grow towards our highest, most evolved, most successful selves, drawing down energy and inspiration that is beyond us, energy to be shared with others (kind of like water overflowing an already full glass). Put another way:

Desire* everything > control impulses > receive everything > share

If you want to become your highest and best self, the most successful, most actualized and most capable and most altruistic you, open that third-eye… stop being impulsive… perhaps start meditating! By becoming a conduit of goodness (sharing), you’ll get to experience goodness via the process.

*A note on desire: desire is intimately tied to impulse control. When you want something really bad, it can be very hard to delay gratification. Arguably, the more you want something the harder it is to say no. Desire, interestingly, also changes with age. Think of the vigor of a 20-something who wants it all. Now compare that to a 60-something who maybe tried and failed (those squiggles) and, as a byproduct, has maybe given up and just wants to go up that ladder less (their desire has shrunk).  For the 60-year old, impulse is less pressing than it was 40 years ago. Interestingly, from a scientific perspective, there’s an explanation for this as well. The first part of the brain to degenerate with age is the pre-frontal cortex. Meaning, as our desire shrinks and as we age, the part of our brain associated with impulse control and the ability to delay instant gratification shrinks therewith. So if you want to stay young and you want to continue up that ladder, whatever you do, don’t allow your desire shrink. 

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