Saturday, April 15, 2017

Inspirational Quote – April 15, 2017

“I didn’t change. I just woke up!”

This very much resonates with me regarding my spiritual awakening and what it has led to since. Working, being a wife and a mum, friends and family got used to me in this role for a lot of years. When I began to work with spirit in, I believe, my true calling, they were very surprised at how much I had “changed” when all I felt was relief and contentment in actually being “me” at last, growing into myself if you like. Very much like an awakening and a very welcome one but something everybody else has had to get used to.

Billy Barr: The Snow Guardian

Who is Billy Barr and how has he single-handedly produced remarkable evidence of climate change? For the past four decades, Barr has lived alone in a cabin in the remote, ghost town of Gothic, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains, one of the United State's coldest locations. With no external incentives, or formal training in the field, he began keeping meticulous snowfall records to escape boredom during the harsh winter months. Now his extensive research is invaluable to the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab and many other scientists around the world. This short video offers a compelling glimpse of Barr's unconventional life and contributions.

Friday, April 14, 2017

How to Keep Technology from Disrupting Your Happiness

By Kira M. Newman

Technology can make our lives happier and more productive—but only if we use it intentionally, a new book argues.

Technology can bring happiness. Anyone who’s found the perfect meditation app or downloaded a grandchild’s photo won’t doubt that.
But technology can also bring anxiety, stress, and frustration. And that seems to be a given, too, making us throw our hands up in the air. We accept that technology will always be a mixed bag and we have to take the bad with the good.
According to Amy Blankson, author of the new book, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era, this attitude is a problem.
“As tech advances and we accept these changes without pause, I worry that maybe our happiness is getting left behind, moving further down the priority list,” she writes.
Instead, she argues, we should take back control of our happiness by pausing, becoming more self-aware, and setting intentional goals for our technological interactions. That way, we’ll cultivate more connection and productivity—and less stress and loneliness—in our digital lives.

Finding happiness in the digital world

No book on technology would be complete without citing some unsettling statistics: Young people spend an average of six or more hours a day on their phones, for example, and 50 percent of teens feel addicted to them. Six percent of U.S. employees checked their work email when they or their spouse was in labor!
The average American user turns their phone on 46 times per day, and only sometimes are we doing something useful: looking up a restaurant on Google Maps, for example, or setting an alarm. Other times, we’re driven by a buzz, a ping, or just the illusion of one—and these interruptions are costly.
Research suggests that being distracted from a task (like, say, working) for just a minute can disrupt our short-term memory, causing us to forget whatever ideas or intentions we had in mind. After a mere 2.8-second interruption (the time it might take to read a text message), we make twice as many errors on a complex task; after 4.4 seconds (the time it might take to write one), our errors triple.
But Blankson also wants to tell the other side of the story. “I encourage you to avoid the road of the tech doomsday-sayers, because I don’t see that it is truly possible for us to eliminate technology and I don’t think we should have to eliminate technology to find happiness,” she writes.
For example, most Internet users say email has improved their relationships with their family (55 percent) and their friends (66 percent). Half of us have met someone online that we later connected with in person, and 22 percent of people are married, engaged to, or living with someone they first encountered on the Internet (and those relationships aren’t any less stable than the ones formed in the “real world”).
According to a 2014 study, employees who sport wearable devices become 8.5 percent more productive and 3.5 percent more satisfied with their jobs—perhaps because they learn to move around more, improve their posture, and focus.
“Tech is not a toxin that we need to flush out of our systems—it’s a tool,” writes Blankson. “And it’s a tool that we must learn to wield effectively.”

How to use technology intentionally

Blankson’s book is full of tips on how to capture more of the benefits and fewer of the drawbacks of technology, along with stories of her own triumphs and failures. What it boils down to is being deliberate with when, how, and why we use technology. 
In one study, researchers instructed participants to either keep smartphone notifications on or turn them off for a full week. The ones hearing regular pings reported being more hyperactive and inattentive, which predicted lower productivity and well-being.
The lesson? Turn off all but the most crucial notifications, says Blankson. (I myself shut off the sound on most of my notifications long ago, allowing them to pop up silently, and that alone has made my days much more peaceful.)
Blankson also recommends checking email, social media, and news just three times a day. She cites research suggesting that people who check email less frequently become less stressed, and (in turn) they experience better sleep, deeper social connection, and more meaning in life.
If the idea of disconnecting makes you feel uneasy, ask yourself why, Blankson advises. Maybe you fear the consequences if you don’t—for your career or your personal life. Or maybe constant multitasking makes you feel busy and important. “Interruptions leave us feeling desired and needed, which can become intoxicating and addictive,” she writes.
Ultimately, many technological interruptions come from other people, and they grab our attention because we desire connection, she writes. That same desire for connection is a good compass to guide us: We should embrace tech when it brings us closer together, but change our behavior when it does the opposite.
That means putting down our phones and laptops at certain times—say, when having a conversation at work—but picking them up at other times. For example, Blankson encourages families to share their moments of gratitude on Facebook or Instagram, and recommends dozens of apps to help us become more giving, empathic citizens (see sidebar).
Besides being intentional about when to use technology, it’s also important to intentionally chose which technology to use. According to Blankson, technology users come in three flavors: Embracers, who like to be on the cutting edge; Accepters, who go along with mainstream trends; and Resistors, who can’t or don’t want to adopt certain tech. Knowing where you fit in can help you decide if you need to get an iPad, download the latest project management software, or use an activity tracker.
The key question to ask is: “Does this technology truly make me happier and more productive?” It’s an obvious question, of course, but one that we don’t always raise.
Finally, Blankson echoes the common advice to take time to unplug. Stepping away from our devices can improve our focus, helping us collaborate, learn, and socialize more effectively. In one experiment, Korean workers who took a break without their phones felt more energetic and less emotionally exhausted afterward compared to workers who brought their phones along, even if they didn’t use them. And studies are now suggesting that modern children need to unplug regularly in order to differentiate the real world from the virtual one.
Blankson’s book isn’t the first to tell us that technology can be good or bad, that it depends on how we use it and that we should be more mindful. But what she adds to the discussion is a deep understanding of the roots of well-being.
“Small decisions, which feel disjointed and innocuous, are the biggest determinants of our productivity, and ultimately of our happiness,” she writes. Our technological lives are full of small decisions—to comment on not, to switch on or off, to reach out or stay silent. All of us, through our little daily habits and choices, are determining whether our technological culture is a happy one.

How to Stop Passive Aggression from Ruining Your Relationship

By Andrea Brandt

Learning to express anger in a healthy way will help couples resolve conflicts, instead of letting them simmer.

Every Saturday night, Bill and Sarah leave their son with a babysitter and go out to dinner. Sarah hopes that by dressing up for date night, it’ll keep a spark in their marriage. One night, Sarah puts on a new, little red dress. It’s more daring than what she usually wears, so she’s nervous to show him.
When he sees it on her, he smiles and gives a little, surprised shake of his head. “You look…different,” he says. Sarah feels crushed, but she doesn’t say anything. Instead, she feels self-conscious all night and swears to herself that she’ll never wear it again.
That night, when they’re in bed together, and Bill leans in to kiss her, she gives him a quick peck on the cheek, rolls over, and pretends to fall asleep. For the rest of the week, Sarah thinks about the red dress and Bill’s comment. She pretends her stomach hurts when Bill wants to make love.
By Saturday, Sarah is fuming mad but holds her feelings in, just so she doesn’t have to ask, “What did you mean by ‘You look different’?” and say, “That hurt my feelings.” What she doesn’t know is that if she did so, it would make her feel better. Bill would tell her the truth: He’d never seen her in something like that before, so she caught him off guard. But he liked the way she looked in it.
Sarah’s behavior toward Bill is a classic example of passive-aggressive behavior. Passive aggression is the indirect expression of anger by someone who is uncomfortable or unable to express his or her anger or hurt feelings honestly and openly.
When both members of a couple have a healthy relationship with anger, they can feel it, say they’re upset, discuss what triggered them, and find a resolution and closure. Passive aggression is a symptom of the fear of conflict. While someone’s passive aggressive behavior may make you instantly feel like you’re in the middle of a fight, that’s what he or she is trying to avoid. Unfortunately, it makes it much harder to reach resolution and closure, because the anger is always simmering, never rising to the surface to be confronted.
Passive aggressiveness often stems from one’s childhood experience with anger. If you witnessed explosive anger as a child, where a caregiver yelled or displayed physical aggression, you are likely to grow up terrified of the emotion—not just of seeing someone get angry, but of feeling anger, too. Passive aggression can also spring from caretakers who treated anger like it was always on the emotional “no” list. Happiness? Yes. Sadness? Sure, everyone feels sad sometimes. Anger? Nope. Not in this house.
When we grow up believing that anger is always scary or is never allowed, we don’t learn how to feel it and express it in a way that is healthy and even beneficial to a relationship.
Over the course of my 35 years working in Santa Monica as a marriage and family therapist, and teacher of anger-management classes, I developed some specific tips for coping with passive aggression. Passive aggression is a learned behavior that can be unlearned. To help your partner confront and deal with his or her passive aggressiveness, you need to be clear that it’s not who your partner is that bothers you, but how he or she behaves some of the time. When the passive-aggressive person is you, then you need to take the same steps and remind yourself that it is a behavior that you have the power to change.

What to do in the heat of the moment

When passive aggression emerges in the middle of a conflict, here are seven steps to take.
1. Chill out. Attempting to begin a dialogue when one or both of you are in a very negative headspace will cause the person who behaves passive-aggressively to shut down or to escalate the situation. Take a minute to chill out and calm down before approaching each other and the issue.
2. Talk it out. Don’t try to guess or assume you know what your partner is feeling or thinking. Instead, ask your partner how he or she feels.
3. Brainstorm. The work of being in a successful relationship takes two people. As often as possible, come up with ideas for solutions to your issues together. Make your list of options as long and as wide-ranging as possible.
4. List pros and cons. Once you’ve finished brainstorming a list of possible solutions, talk through the pros and cons of each idea on the list.
5. Win-win. The best solution is the one where both of you win the most and lose the least.
6. Execute the plan. Take your win-win solution and execute it. It may take some time to see if it works. Make a plan in advance for when you’ll come back to evaluate.
7. Evaluate. Did your solution work? If not, try one of the other solutions on your list for another trial period.

How to eliminate passive-aggressive behavior over the long run

Of course, addressing passive aggression in the heat of the moment is, at best, a thin bandage. For many couples, passive aggression is a long-term pattern—and the best way to change the pattern is to work on it together, over time.
Eliminating passive aggressiveness involves establishing clarity about the dividing lines between you and your partner—and respect for each other’s emotional and physical space. It also calls for flexibility. Ideally, you and your partner can get to a place where you feel secure enough in your relationship that you can change your boundaries without fear of losing yourself or the relationship. You will feel flexible in your boundaries because it’s your choice, not because your partner is pressuring you.
If your partner is the one who is passive aggressive, you need to make sure he or she knows what it is they do or say that upsets and angers you, but they also need to hear that you love them and that expressing anger will not automatically end your relationship. If you’re the passive aggressive one in the relationship, you should be open to hearing what your partner has to say about how you can meet his or her emotional needs.
Here are three steps you can take to understand each other’s boundaries and create a healthier relationship to anger.
1. Make a list. Take some quiet time to yourselves to each make a list of some recent issues that have come up in your relationship. Write down the last time you felt angered by something your partner said or did and the last time you felt hurt by something your partner said or did. Write down one thing you wish you could change about your significant other’s behavior and one thing your partner could do to make you feel happier and more secure in your relationship.
2. Draw the boundaries. Looking over your list, can you identify any specific boundaries that would help you in your relationship? The more precise and tailored your request, the better.
If your partner’s demand that dinner is on the table every night angers you, don’t say, “It upsets me you never cook dinner; I’d be happier if you cooked more.” Instead, say, “It would mean a lot to me if you would be in charge of dinner on Monday nights since that’s the day I always have the most stress at work.” You don’t even have to ask that he or she cook the meal if that’s not what’s most important. Explain that takeout or delivery is okay with you as long as you don’t have to think about it or plan it.
3. Take one day at a time. To not make this about one partner needing to fix things and be better for the other, each of you should exchange one boundary or request. Do only one for now and see how it goes. But keep your lists and, in a few weeks, come back together for an update to see how this exercise went and to exchange one more request.
When in passive-aggressive conflict, remember to focus on the present or future rather than rehashing the past. While you may still be upset about the past, it’s not going to help you or your partner to keep bringing up old wounds when discussing current problems. Remember to respect your partner’s thoughts and feelings, and expect he or she to respect yours, too. Don’t forget to take responsibility for your behavior.
Finally, even if it’s your partner’s passive aggressiveness that has you reading articles online and doing seven-step exercises, remember you’re not perfect, either. Your focus should be on solving the problem at hand, not on being right, or better, or proving that you’re emotionally healthier. Everyone has room to improve and has a role in bettering a relationship.

How to Better Understand Your Child

By Diana Divecha

Pediatrician Claudia Gold wants to help parents and professionals discover the true reasons behind each child’s behavior.

Parents and professionals focus a lot on children’s behavior. Is the behavior appropriate? Is the child well-behaved? How do we manage children’s behavior? But pediatrician Claudia Gold suggests that paying attention to behavior alone can lead us to misunderstand and misdiagnose our kids.
Gold is a writer and parent-infant mental health specialist. In her latest book, The Developmental Science of Early Childhood: Clinical Applications of Infant Mental Health Concepts from Infancy Through Adolescence, she describes how larger forces in the family and in the child’s biology can affect behavior and how to understand a child’s deep story. We need to move beyond behavior and pay attention to the meaning behind it, she argues, because it actually communicates something deeper and more fundamentally important.
Though this book is more for professionals, she wrote two earlier books that help parents work through common childhood problems like temper tantrums and defiance, and more misunderstood issues like sensory processing disorders and ADHD. I spoke with her about some of her key ideas about nurturing mental health in children.
Diana Divecha: What is a developmental-relational approach to children’s well-being?
Claudia GoldClaudia Gold
Claudia Gold: In a developmental-relational approach, you begin to see the person in front of you—no matter what age they are—in the context of their present and past relationships. Our issues don’t just arise out of nowhere, they come with a story, and learning the story of a person’s development—both the science and the individual’s unique experiences—is critical to helping people. It shifts the focus from treating the individual to treating the person in his or her context. And it shifts the focus from a person’s behavior to looking at the meaning underlying the behavior.
I used to be a practicing pediatrician on the front lines of care with families. I’ve always been interested in promoting healthy development in children, but in the early 2000s, I noticed the standard of care shifting to medicating youth. I, too, felt pressure to diagnose and medicate, but I knew it just wasn’t always right when it came to children’s mental health. Instead, I began to learn how, when we support families from birth, and use the science of development, we have so many more opportunities for prevention.
DD: You say in your book The Developmental Science of Early Childhood that “the relationship is the patient, not the child.” What does that mean?
CD: Sure. Let’s take a preschooler who is aggressive, and the teacher tells the parent that the child has ADHD. By asking questions and listening carefully, I often find out in these cases that the child was a very active baby, or intense, or “fussy.” It’s also common that the parent of this kind of child can become anxious or depressed, thereby setting into motion what psychologist Ed Tronick calls the “dance of dysregulation.” That is, the child easily sets off the parent, the parent easily gets angry, and you throw sleep deprivation into the mix, which is usually part of the story for both the parent and the child, and a cycle of dysregulation gets going.
Even if the dysregulation originated in the biology of the child, it affects the relationships, it affects everyone’s sleep, it affects parents’ sense of self-efficacy, and these in turn affect the child. So it’s only when you work on the relationships in the family—between the child and parent, between both parents, and between siblings—that you begin to understand what’s truly going on for that particular child.
DD: So, if you just prescribed medication for ADHD, you would miss all the tendrils that reach out into other areas of a whole family’s life.
CG: Exactly. In my book The Silenced Child, I talk about how the long-term outcomes for ADHD are not good, and there’s often comorbidity of substance abuse, depression, suicide, all sorts of things. But we never really take the time to understand the problem in the first place. We just don’t see the other things that are happening in the child’s life.
Another example is domestic violence. Many times in my practice, a kid is brought in as the patient and the focus of the discussion is on the kids’ symptoms and medications. Later, there’s a blowup in the family, something really bad happens, the marriage falls apart, and only then do we find out that the child was living in an incredibly high-stress environment for years. We miss a lot when we don’t take time to hear the full story.
DD: How do we shift that mindset in adults from focusing on behavior to focusing on the meaning behind it?
CG: It helps to talk about some examples. Take a typical situation where a child in school has trouble with the person standing next to him in line and he pushes him. Now, you could punish the infraction. But if you look more deeply, you might find that the child has sensory hypersensitivity and standing close to other people is challenging and physically uncomfortable. If you are mindful of the fact that a child’s pushing another child may be the result of sensory issues, you can preventatively manage that, anticipate that.
Or maybe that child has experienced trauma or high levels of stress. We now know that high levels of stress early in development change the developing brain, and these children are likely to have a very heightened stress response—they can quickly go from being completely fine to being completely out of control. Punishment, then, will just escalate the problem to a great magnitude, immediately. Not that kids can get away with hitting each other, but when adults understand different kinds of explanations for a child’s behavior, then there are many more ways to intervene, to help a child feel calm in the body.
I had one child who experienced traumatic neglect as a baby, and who was later adopted. When that child got upset, the teacher could just drum alternating rhythmic movements with her hands on her knees to help calm him down and connect with him. Drumming might sound ridiculous, but on the other hand what we’re doing now with such kids is definitely not working.
It’s hard for an individual teacher to make these shifts by him- or herself. It’s really a systems issue, and teachers need to be supported and empowered. The whole school should have a developmentally informed approach to education. I believe if we can get that kind of systemic change, we’ll start to decrease this epidemic of psychiatric disorders in kids.

DD: You emphasize the importance of cultivating the child’s “true self.” That seems hard to do, given that adults project a lot onto children, or have conventional wisdom about children, or even carry along ideas from their own upbringing. How can parents and professionals clearly see a child’s true self?
CG: It’s important for adults to have the space and time to be curious about what a child is communicating. And it needs to start early. For example, in my small, rural Massachusetts town, we’re teaching all the maternity nurses the Newborn Behavioral Observation System that was developed from the work of pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton. This is a list of 18 items that helps parents and clinicians read the earliest signs of a baby’s unique, individual preferences and vulnerabilities and identify areas that might need more support. For example, how do they respond to light and sound, how do they move, what is their stress response like, how alert are they, and how easily are they soothed?
It’s a way to let the parent see the baby as an individual from the very beginning, and it helps clear away ideas like “my baby cries because she hates me” or “she’s manipulative,” when actually the baby might be super sensitive or prefer a certain position. But in order to do this, parents themselves need to feel valued and taken care of. They are much more available to listen to their child, really hear what the child is saying, when they themselves feel okay. When they’re stressed, it’s easier to lash out, or assume the worst.
DD: You make a point of taking the pressure off of parents to be perfect. Why is perfection the wrong goal?
CG: A famous British pediatrician and psychoanalyst named D.W. Winnicott talked about the “good-enough mother” (he writes mainly about mothers as they were usually the primary caregivers in his practice ). The mother (or caregiver) who is perfect, he said, can actually get in the way of the child’s development. What’s important, he said, is that the parent meet the child’s needs to the degree that the child can tolerate disruption.
Studies show that parents in good relationships have mismatches, disruptions, and “misattunements” in their rhythms with their children about 70 percent of the time! What is important is not that the disruptions happen, but that they get repaired, afterwards. It is this ebb and flow of mismatch and repair that teaches children about human relationships. Babies, young children, and older children need experiences of surviving bumps and disruptions to build a sense of self and self-efficacy. It’s this process that actually builds resilience.
Later, when they get to college and get a C on their test, or they get turned down for a job, they have an internal reservoir to get past it, and that’s important because disruptions get bigger as you get older. But the learning of that resilience starts in infancy. There are many stories in my book The Silenced Child about how to go through tough times with a child and come out the other side.

DD: What do you mean by the phrase “Regulate, Relate, and Reason”?
CG: That comes from the work of child psychiatrist Bruce Perry. I often tell groups I’m teaching that if you remember only one thing, remember that phrase. No matter what age we are, when we are stressed, the thinking parts of our brain are just not accessible. So we have to regulate the strong feelings first, and only then can a person connect with another person, and then that takes them to the next level of being able to think and reason about feelings. It’s bringing thinking to feeling, and feeling to thinking.
DD: What’s your advice to parents about handling sibling conflicts?
CG: I would apply exactly the same framework as I have all along, which is to focus on the meaning of the behavior. I treated a family where the older child always had to be first, and this was massively disruptive to their lives. They couldn’t get out the door because he had to have more milk at breakfast, he had to have his shoes on first, and more.
But underneath this was a very significant story of loss. The mother’s older brother had died when she was a child and the family had never mourned this loss, choosing instead to just “move forward.” For this mother, her older child came to represent that inmourned loss. She became paralyzed in the face of her own children’s typical sibling conflict. You’ve just got to hear the story, that’s the bottom line, and then you’ll know what to do.
DD: Last question: How can we teach our politicians about developmental science and the importance of enacting policies that support children?
CG: I have a fantasy of going to Congress and showing films of newborns interacting with their parents. Here’s one of me doing the Newborn Behavioral Observation:

We need to communicate on an emotional level, then people understand how connected babies really are, and what they need. And storytelling. That’s what really gets across.

Inspirational Quote – April 14, 2017

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, ALWAYS.”

This is so true and something we all need to be more aware of. I firmly believe that everybody has their own story which has shaped and molded them into the person they are and that when we encounter each other we need to remember this. It’s so easy to respond angrily to another’s verbal attack, be impatient with their depressed mood or tendency to look on the dark side, when we are unaware of what they are going through. If we can, and I say “if”, look past their tendency to lash out or anger, and show patience, understanding and kindness, this may be all that is needed to help them feel better and able to deal with their problems, so wouldn’t it make more sense to make this effort?

Viktor Frankl & the Search for Meaning

Few books of the last century have had a greater impact on our quest for meaning than Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. This all-time bestseller was written by a Jewish man who had just lost everything in the Holocaust. When Frankl, emaciated from concentration camps, returned to his beloved Vienna, no one was there to meet him. His mother had been gassed at Auschwitz. His brother had been killed in another camp. His wife, Tilly, had starved to death in the women's camp at Bergen-Bergen. Now, he wondered, what was the point of his life? Frankl poured out Man's Search for Meaning in just nine days, weeping in an empty room with windows bombed out from the war. Seventy years later, the book remains a classic textbook for college students and a guidepost for people all faiths. Read on for an interview between professor Fran Grace and Frankl's grandson Alexander Vesely and Mary Cimiluca, Frankl family advisor, about their film Viktor & I.

For the Love of Bees: A Conversation with Meredith May

"(My grandfather) instilled in me a love of bees and their gentle nature, but I think what I absorbed from it-- without even realizing it -- is how his relationship with the bees gave him a relationship with everybody up and down (Big Sur)." Award winning journalist, writer, and beekeeper, Meredith May talks about family, beekeeping, and storytelling.

This Is A Poem That Heals Fish

What is a poem? The beautiful children's book, 'This Is a Poem That Heals Fish', follows the journey of a young boy seeking to answer just that. Written by French poet Jean-Pierre Simen and brilliantly translated into English by Claudia Zoe Bedrick, the story is as moving as it is profound. Poetry, by its very nature, is often elusive, and this is reflected in the responses of the characters who are tasked with defining it. "A poem", one replies, "is when words beat their wings. It is sung in a cage." By the end of the story, the young boy learns that a poem is made up of far more than the words that compose it. And perhaps can only be defined by those who bravely ask the question.