Saturday, June 17, 2017

Best Exercises for Your Knees

Is It Safe for Me to Exercise?

Do you worry that working out could cause more knee damage or pain? As long as your doctor says it’s OK, the best thing you can do is to strengthen the muscles that support your knee and keep them flexible. Start slowly, and build up over time.

Warm Up First

You can ride a stationary bike for about 5 minutes, take a brisk 2-minute walk while pumping your arms, or do 15-20 wall push-ups followed by the same number of calf raises. Doing this will help you get more out of your workout, prepare you to stretch, and lower your risk of an injury.

1. Straight Leg Raises

If your knee’s not at its best, start with a simple strengthening exercise for your quadriceps, the muscles in the front of the thigh. This move puts little to no strain on the knee. Lie on your back on the floor or another flat surface. Bend one knee and place your foot flat on the floor. Keeping the other leg straight, raise it to the height of the opposite knee. Repeat 10-15 times for three sets.

2. Hamstring Curls

These are the muscles along the back of your thigh. Lie flat on your stomach. Slowly bring your heels as close to your butt as you can, and hold that position. Do three sets of 15. You can also do this exercise standing while you hold onto a chair and lift one leg at a time. If this becomes easy, you can add ankle weights, slowly increasing the weight from 1 to 3 to 5 pounds.

3. Prone Straight Leg Raises

Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. Tighten the muscles in your bottom and the hamstring of one leg, and lift toward the ceiling. Hold 3-5 seconds, lower, and repeat. Do 10-15 lifts and switch sides. You can add ankle weights as you gain strength. You shouldn’t feel back pain. If you do, limit how high you lift up. If it still hurts, stop and talk to your doctor.

4. Wall Squats

This is a more-advanced move. You’ll keep your feet on the floor. Stand with your back against a wall, your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your knees, and keep your back and pelvis against the wall. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Don’t bend too deeply. If you feel pressure or discomfort in your knees, adjust your position. Repeat the exercise, and try to hold the sit position a few seconds longer each time.

5. Calf Raises

Stand facing the back of a sturdy chair, other support such as the back of a couch, or a wall bar at the gym. You can also do this on the stairs, holding on to the banister with your heels hanging off the edge of the step. Slowly raise the heels as high as you can, then lower. Do three sets of 10-15. When it becomes easy, lift one foot slightly off the floor, with all your weight on the other foot.

6. Step-Ups

Place one foot on a step bench, platform, or the lowest step on a staircase. Keeping your pelvis level, bend your knee and slowly lower the opposite foot to the floor. Lightly touch your toe to the floor, then rise back up. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch legs. Too easy? Use a higher step, or touch your heel instead of your toe.

7. Side Leg Raises

Lie on one side with your legs stacked. Bend the bottom leg for support. Straighten the top leg and raise it to 45 degrees. Hold for 5 seconds, lower and relax briefly, then repeat 10-15 times. Switch sides and start over. Want to try a bit of a different spin on the move? Point the toe of your upper leg slightly toward the floor as you raise it.

8. Leg Presses

Sit on a leg-press machine with your back and head against the support and your feet flat on the foot plate. Adjust the seat back so it’s comfortable. Slowly push the plate away from you until your legs are extended. Bend your knees and return to your starting position. Do three sets of 10-15 reps. (Ask a gym staff member for assistance the first time you do this.)

No-No's for Your Knee

Exercise should never cause pain or make it worse. Remember: Muscle soreness after a hard workout is normal. But sharp, shooting, or sudden pain in the muscles or joints means you should stop and check with your doctor.

Knee-Friendly Cardio

Gentle is good. So, skip high-impact activities such as running or intense aerobics. Notice what feels right for you. For example, some people love elliptical machines, but others don’t. Swimming, jogging in water, or water aerobics are perfect. Your body in water weighs one-sixth of what it does on land.

Reasons You're Not Losing Weight

Your Sleep Schedule Is Off

If you get more than 9 hours of sleep a night, you may be the envy of your friends, but too much or too little sleep -- less than 5 hours a night -- can be linked to weight gain. Both can throw off the way your body makes the hormones that control your appetite and hunger. And if you don’t feel rested, you may skip your workouts, too.

You Don’t Drink Enough Water

Between 2 and 6 cups of clear, plain water each day can help you lose extra pounds. Water has no calories at all, so it satisfies your thirst without adding weight. And when you drink enough water, you may be less likely to grab sodas, juices, or coffee drinks packed with sugar. High calories in sweet drinks can add up to a big weight gain.

You Wait Too Long to Eat

When you space out your meals too much, your metabolism slows down and isn’t able to burn off all the calories you eat in your next meal. Those extra calories may wind up as extra weight. And you may overeat because you’re too hungry. Try eating smaller portions, and eat more often.

You Eat Out Too Often

OK, you hate to cook. But if you eat most of your meals at restaurants, it may be harder to keep your weight under control. Even so-called light dishes may have more calories than you realize. And we’re not just talking about dinner, either. People who eat lunch out daily can weigh up to 5 pounds more than those who brown-bag it.

You Sit All Day

Your desk job or TV obsession may make it harder for you to drop those pesky pounds. When you sit most of the time, your body can lose its ability to know when you’ve eaten too much -- you can overeat and gain weight. Even brief exercise breaks during the day can help you stay healthy. Get up for three 10-minute walks around meetings or your favorite shows.

You Reward Workouts With Food

Exercise is a great way to lose weight -- it burns calories and builds muscle mass. But if you indulge in a big dinner or smoothie after every workout, you can ruin all that sweaty work. Watch out for high-sugar sports drinks and protein bars, too. While they can help quench your thirst or give you an energy boost post-workout, they can be very high in calories.

You Overdo the Alcohol

Whether you like wine, beer, or mixed drinks, alcohol has calories that add to your daily amount. If you often have 3 or more drinks a day, you’re more likely to gain weight or be overweight, no matter what type of alcohol you drink. Stick to light or moderate drinking, like one glass of wine with dinner. That may actually help keep you from gaining weight.

Stress Gives You Snack Attacks

If you feel tense, you’re more likely to reach for unhealthy, high-calorie treats for a quick comfort fix. You may eat when you don't really need food.

You Make Quick Food Decisions

It’s worth your time to plan out your meals and healthy snacks so you’re not tempted to grab something on the go. Even if you get enough activity, you can gain an extra pound or two if you tend to eat fast food or sugary snacks or sodas. Your body doesn’t seem to treat these calories the same as energy you get from healthy foods -- it breaks them down too quickly. They’re also low in fiber, so you don’t feel full afterward and you’re likely to eat or drink more

Your Thyroid Is Sluggish

If this tiny gland in the front of your throat lags on the job, you could gain as much as 5 to 10 extra pounds. Your thyroid makes hormones that control your energy level and how your body breaks down food. If you don’t make enough of them, it can be hard to shed pounds. You may also feel bloated because your body holds on to too much water and salt. If you think you might have a thyroid problem, talk with your doctor. Medication can help

You’re Pregnant

Healthy weight gain during your pregnancy is a good thing. If you’re at an average weight before you get pregnant, it’s good to gain 25 to 35 pounds. Go for whole foods like fruits, veggies, grains, and proteins that nourish you and your baby.

Your Medication

Some drugs you take for health problems could make you gain a little weight. For example, steroids can change your metabolism and make you feel hungrier -- you may overeat and gain extra belly fat. Even antihistamines that calm your hay fever could cause weight gain. They lower a chemical your body makes to control your appetite, so you may sneeze less but eat more.

You’re in Menopause

If you’re like most women, you may find your weight creeps up during menopause. Changes in your hormones, less muscle mass, and too little sleep from hot flashes can all lead to added pounds. If you wake up tired, you’re more likely to want to munch on snacks for a boost of energy later in the day. Your genes may also make you more likely to get a “spare tire.”

Check With Your Doctor

Some health problems can make it really hard to lose weight even if you diet and exercise. Your genes can also play a role in how much you weigh or where your body stores fat. Talk to your doctor if you just can’t seem to lose weight. Tests can show if you have a health problem that makes weight loss hard, and you can get medicine or other help to overcome it.

Inspirational Quote – June 17, 2017

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.”

Well this does make sense don’t you think? If we live life feeling positive, hopeful and confident in our ability to cope, achieve and succeed, wouldn’t it follow that this would pave the way for life to respond in kind? I believe it would be more likely than being pessimistic, doubting our abilities and having a “poor me” attitude towards other people and life in general. I know which one I’d rather be don’t you? So, what are you waiting for, if you’re not already being optimistic, then make today the first day of your new outlook and see what happens…… I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Resilience After Unimaginable Loss

Sheryl Sandberg is synonymous with Facebook and Silicon Valley success, and she's the voice of Lean In. She joins On Being, host Krista Tippet, frank and vulnerable, together with the psychologist Adam Grant. His friendship and his research on resilience helped Sandburg survive the shocking death of her husband while on vacation. They share what they've learned about planting deep resilience in ourselves and our children, and even reclaiming joy. There is so much learning here on facing the unimaginable when it arrives in our lives and being more practically caring towards the losses woven into lives all around us.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How to Look Your Best as You Get Older

Care for Your Hair

Keep your style neat as you get older. That mop-top from your younger days may not work anymore. If you’re going bald, you have options. You can spend the cash in hopes of restoring your hair, trim it super short, or shave your head clean. A ponytail, especially if you’re balding, will make you look older, not hipper. If you want to cover your grays, choose a color close to your natural shade.

Trim Things Up

Nothing says “old man” like crazy eyebrows, ear hair, and a bushy back. Have your barber tame your brows, ears, and nose hair. Or you can do it yourself with at-home trimmers. Keep your back and chest fur from peeking out of the top of your shirt by shaving, waxing, using a depilatory (a cream that removes hair), or through laser treatments.

Shave Your Beard. Or Don’t.

Most of the time, a closely shaved man looks younger than a guy with a beard and mustache. That said, there are no rules, just keep it well-groomed. If you decide it’s time to cover your gray, use a dye that’s meant for men's facial hair. A solid beard tone will look fake.

Save Face

To keep your skin from adding years to your looks, wear sunscreen, moisturizer, and lip balm daily. Retinoids can help you slough off old skin cells. You can find them in many over-the-counter products or get a stronger version by prescription from a dermatologist. They also stop collagen, the stuff that keeps your skin stretchy, from breaking down. This gives you a more vibrant, youthful look.

Ease the Wrinkles

Is it time to get a little work done? A doctor can inject something called a filler just below the surface of your skin to plump it up. Or you can try a Botox shot. It weakens muscles, which softens wrinkles. Common places to get it are on your forehead and around your eyes. Laser skin resurfacing can zap shallow to medium-deep wrinkles.

Stick With Healthy Habits

If you want to look good on the outside, you gotta take care of the inside. You can’t act like you did in your 20s. You know the rules: Get plenty of rest, eat right, drink water, don’t smoke, leave the booze at the bar, and try to get some exercise most days.

Flash Those Pearly Whites

A bright smile can make you look -- and feel -- like a million bucks. Guys who brush and floss regularly can up the wattage with a whitening toothpaste. At-home bleaching strips or trays also work. You can also go to the dentist for a treatment. For a big change -- if your choppers are stained, damaged, or crooked -- ask about veneers. These porcelain shells cover the front side of your teeth

Dress the Part

Stock your closet with a few quality pieces like a good suit, a leather jacket, and dark-wash classic-fit jeans. Add some trendy items each season, but don’t hang onto them after everyone else has moved on. If you can afford it, have your clothes tailored for a perfect fit. Accessories are OK, but don’t overdo it with the bling. Chukka boots and wingtips are stylish, and each works well with a number of outfits.

Frame It Up

Molded plastic eyeglass frames are hot right now and will help hide some of the character lines around your eyes. A frame that sweeps upward at the temples will help give your face a visual lift. Stay away from styles with heavy lower sections or a downward curve (like aviators). They can give you a heavy or droopy look.

How to Turn Stigma about Mental Illness into Compassion

Stephen Hinshaw explores what it meant to be raised by a father with psychosis—and how that experience has informed his work as a psychologist.

What is it like to grow up in a household with a parent displaying serious mental illness?
Renowned psychologist Stephen Hinshaw knows firsthand. His father suffered major bouts of psychosis that kept him periodically hospitalized during Hinshaw’s childhood. Yet, the reasons for these absences were never explained to Hinshaw, until he turned 18 and his philosopher father started to divulge his lifetime of struggles (which included being (mis)diagnosed with schizophrenia for decades).
Stephen HinshawStephen Hinshaw
Hinshaw is now a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and an internationally recognized expert on developmental psychopathology. He has written a memoir about his experiences of growing up in a family where mental illness was hidden.
His book, Another Kind of Madness: A Journey through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness, is brutally honest, divulging his father’s plight as well as his own struggles with mental illness—including depression, obsessive thinking, and troubled eating patterns. Even more, it’s a call to action to stop the silence surrounding mental illness and to prevent stigmatization, so that people can get the treatment and support they need.
I sat down with him to ask more about his experiences and what they might teach the rest of us.
Jill Suttie: Why did you decide to write this memoir?
Stephen Hinshaw: I thought my dad’s story—and that of my whole family—was an important one. To overcome the shame and stigma associated with mental illness, we need to tell honest stories about families who were silenced, and bring to light what so many families go through. Mental illness isn’t rare—it occurs frequently—and when it gets treated, things can really change for the better. But treatment won’t be sought if there’s shame about the entire issue. Encouraging open discussion is the key reason for this book.
JS: How did the silence you experienced around your father’s illness affect you as a child?
SH: It’s hard to recall precisely, because of the “haze” surrounding my Dad’s absences; but I remember thinking, If only I were a better kid, maybe Dad wouldn’t go away next time.
So, I blamed myself. Kids do this when there are family problems but nothing is said. Now, with the hindsight of my career as a developmental psychologist, I understand that this kind of silence breeds internalization. In other words, it may be better to blame yourself—though often at a big cost to self-esteem, plus adding vulnerability to depression later on—than believing the world is just cruel and random. At least you maintain some sense of control.
Major depression has a substantial genetic liability that’s even stronger for bipolar disorder. Yet, as my colleague Bill Beardslee of Harvard Medical School has found out through randomized clinical trials, in families where parents have depression or bipolar disorder, if a family therapist gets the family to talk with their kids about these experiences, things can improve, often dramatically. Not only do kids participating in this kind of treatment function better at the end of the treatment, but even four years later, their own risk of depression is cut in half.
Talking and communicating as a family may prevent the internalization that’s too often a part of the intergenerational transmission of mental illness.
JS: When your father finally talked to you to explain his illness, what was that like?
SH: It was like I’d been holding my breath for 18 years and I was low on oxygen. Then, all of a sudden, an air vent opened.
My dad and I talked about his experiences three or four times a year after our first discussion. Initially, though, I didn’t tell roommates, girlfriends, classmates, or anybody about what I was learning, because I was afraid that I would end up as flawed as my dad.
Stigma goes deep; shame goes deep. Gradually, when I dared speak up, trusted friends said “Tell me more.” It’s like anything in life where you need some support: once you make the effort to reach out and people don’t shun you, your world opens up.
Life really changed for me, once I was able to come out of the closet. The antidotes to what is often called self-stigma, or internalized stigma, are finding a group you can relate to, having a voice, and taking social action. Self-stigma isn’t inevitable if there’s solidarity, if there’s kinship.
JS: What is the role of stigma in seeking treatment for mental illness or even in the treatment itself?
SH: Mental illnesses can be extremely costly in terms of symptoms and impairments, especially for conditions like major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and PTSD, as well as a host of child-onset disorders (ADHD, autism, etc.). Unless evidence-based treatment is sought and received, problems can linger and fester. 
There’s a crucial reason why so many people don’t seek treatment…or that evidence-based treatments aren’t sufficiently available…or that therapists aren’t well trained in them. It’s stigma—the shame surrounding the entire topic. Some people say we shouldn’t talk about the stigma of mental illness, because there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Well, that’s kind of like saying we shouldn’t use the word racism. It still exists even though we’ve made progress.
But too often, mental illnesses are considered to be diseases you bring on yourself, because of poor character or weak will. Or, as has been believed in traditional cultures, because of animal spirits or evil spirits. Today, we know that mental illness can be treated—it’s a disease with origins in the brain—and that’s real progress. Yet if the public is led to believe that mental illness is produced exclusively by one’s genes, pessimism rules—after all, their very DNA is flawed—and social distance increases.
Like most modern illnesses, genetic risk and biological factors are clearly involved in mental disorders. But lifestyle and health choices, along with the decision to engage in treatment, are also crucial. We still don’t have parity for mental health treatment compared to physical health treatment—too often, it’s still a taboo topic.
JS: How do you get around such stigma, to be able to help people?
SH: That’s the 64-jillion-dollar question. These are complex illnesses in the way that cancer, diabetes, and coronary artery disease are complex. Genetic vulnerability exists, yet certain early life experiences can make a person more at risk.
I’m really interested in helping young people to overcome stigma. If you go into health classes in middle schools or high schools and teach the “facts” about mental illness, we know from research that kids will learn such factual information—but, at the same time, their stigma is likely to increase.
Why? Facts, out of context, tend to reinforce the wrong stereotype. The knowledge that needs to be transmitted is that, with proper treatment, people with bipolar disorder or PTSD can really improve.
One of the great social psychologists, Gordon Allport, who wrote The Nature of Prejudice, said that you can teach and you can preach; but if you’re not in contact with the outgroup—the other tribe, the people we think of as lesser somehow—then you won’t understand that they’re human just like you.
This is what we’re doing in a growing number of high schools in the Bay Area, evaluating something called LETS—Let’s Erase The Stigma. Kids join the LETS club and meet once a week with a club advisor to discuss mental illness in themselves or family members or friends. Topics like bullying and “difference” are also on the table.
In our first batch of research, we found that this kind of youth-directed intervention, guided by contact and social action, reduces “social distance” and improves attitudes, even if it doesn’t teach all that much about mental illness facts.
JS: How did your own bouts of mental illness impact your work and research? Do you feel they made you more compassionate?
SH: It’s a sad fact that if you ask people with serious mental illness about their lives and what they find stigmatizing, one of the top responses is, I’m stigmatized by the mental health profession’s low expectations. For example, my doctor may tell me I’ll never get a real job. Or worse. In fact, how have people in the mental health and health professions usually been trained? We’re right, and the patients are wrong; we’re healthy and they’re sick—an “us versus them” mentality.
But coming to understand my Dad, and other family members, as well as my own doubts, made me more sensitive and compassionate, I’m sure. Unless it’s cripplingly severe, depression can give you compassion and empathy. I had the kinds of experiences to counteract some of the professional training I received.
Over the years, blessed by my family’s strengths and my own drive, I worked as hard as I could in college, in running summer camps and schools for troubled kids, in grad school, and throughout my teaching and research career. What a fascinating life I’ve had—with a real chance to give back!
Essential for overcoming stigma is the ability to be open—and to get support. For me, seeing a therapist has been crucial as well.
<a href=“”><em>Another Kind of Madness: A Journey through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness</em></a> (St. Martin’s Press, 2017, 288 pages)Another Kind of Madness: A Journey through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness(St. Martin's Press, 2017, 288 pages)
JS: What can we do personally to help someone we know with mental illness?

SH: The core theme is that if you stick your head in the sand, ignore it, and think it’ll go away, things will almost always backfire.
Number one, don’t be afraid to talk about it. People need social support—and knowing there’s an accepting family or community of workers or friends around is crucial. Number two, you may have to learn more about mental illness. It can seem mysterious or scary; but it’s important to learn what you can about symptoms of mental illness and which treatments can really help. Number three: get them to seek professional help if symptoms are more than transitory. Therapy, and when needed, medication, are effective when good professionals are involved. 
JS: What do you think we as a society need to do to prevent stigma?
SH: How do we overcome racial prejudice? How do we prepare for the ecological changes befalling our planet? How do we enact any major social change?
Well, I think it’s a mistake to think that there’s just one strategy. These are multi-level problems.
In terms of stigma, one way is to work top down. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990, making it illegal, in public spaces or the workplace, to discriminate against somebody with a physical or mental disability.
That’s great, but what often happens in the workplace? People don’t want to tell anyone about their mental illness. If they do, they fear they won’t be hired or they’ll be fired. Ninety-five-plus percent of the lawsuits brought under ADA are from people with physical disabilities—to get a ramp put in, or wider bathroom entrances. Under 5 percent of claims are filed for mental disorders.
The paradox here is that the accommodations needed for somebody with a mental illness are often minor—things like flex time to see your psychologist during lunch. The cost to the organization is miniscule, but people are too afraid of the shame and stigma to even ask for it. There needs to be support for individuals with mental illness to dare to disclose.
Contact and support are urgently needed, including empathy on the part of the general public. We need to change media images. We did a study on how mental illness is portrayed in the media—with coders blind to what we were looking for—and found little change in how mental illness has been portrayed over the last 25 years in major newspapers.
Now, that seems wrong. There are television shows—Carrie on Homeland, for example—that give more accurate portrayals of, for example, bipolar disorder, than ever before. But, by and large, the two main stereotypes in the media are violence and incompetence.
In the end, we need stories of everyday struggles, everyday triumphs. This is what has made cancer such a cause now—knowing it’s your aunt, your sister, your workmate who’s struggling with breast cancer. It engages people’s empathy when they hear stories about everyday people struggling and coping, with humor and tragedy and triumph.
We still don’t have enough of that with mental illness. So, this is the reason for Another Kind of Madness: to convey a deeply personal narrative, with the goal of humanizing the entire topic. In fact, I believe that humanization is the ultimate “cure” for stigma.

Inspirational Quote – June 16, 2017

“Sometimes those who challenge you most….teach you the best.”

I can honestly say that, hand on heart, I have met some really challenging people through the years. I won’t bore you with the details, as I expect you’ve all got your own stories you could share too but, suffice to say, they have taught me valuable lessons. I know I didn’t think so at the time and it was only later, usually much much later, that I realized that I came out of the experience better equipped to deal with future challenging people. So thank you, all you people who have challenged me in the past, thank you all very much indeed!

The Privilege of Sharing Abundance

In these trying times, it can be hard to think we have an abundance of anything. But there is at least one thing that is always in good supply and will never run out -- and that is kindness. Add to that a sprinkle of thoughtfulness and an opportunity to act, and it's nothing short of magical. This is the story of Trail Angels, people who help weary hikers by giving them comfort, food, or cheer without expectation of anything in return. Because they know simple pleasures can be like treasures in the middle of a journey. And they've all been travelers themselves. But while Trail Angels are technically the givers, what they receive is far more precious -- the realization that they have gifts to share, the delight in the opportunity to give them, and the joy that comes with exercising a limitless supply of kindness. Read on for more.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How to Build Relationships across Difference

Here are four ways to confront your unconscious biases and forge meaningful connections with others.

At a recent retreat I facilitated focused on social change, a diverse group of people gathered, from company and foundation executives to grassroots activists and public housing residents. Their goal? To confront their own biases, form relationships across differences, and start to rebuild trust in their community. In our politically polarized society, the authentic conversations they had about race, religious differences, and our country’s often painful history were rare, courageous, and transformative.

Efforts like these exist alongside mounting evidence that in just about every facet of life—from education and health to housing and criminal justice—we are all acting in unconsciously biased ways. Recent studies have demonstrated that from prescribing pain medication to people with broken bones to yielding for pedestrians at a crosswalk, race plays a role in how we treat others.
Many studies have shown that our tendency to unconsciously favor or trust certain people more than others can be observed in the brain. This is likely a survival mechanism, deeply engrained because of our species’ need to make snap judgments about situations for safety’s sake. Unfortunately, the same neural wiring that kept our ancestors alive is not optimal for navigating complex interpersonal situations like hiring qualified candidates, determining risk in high-conflict police interactions, or assigning fair punishment to misbehaving students.
According to Nobel-Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman, we all engage in two kinds of thinking: “fast thinking” and “slow thinking.” Slow thinking is the logical problem solving that occurs when we deliberately perform a task, such as writing an essay or solving a complex math problem. Fast thinking is a kind of unconscious response, such as when we slam on our car brakes before we’re consciously aware of a child running into the street.

This quick-thinking part of our neural wiring is responsible for keeping us alive, taking in cues from the world around us and responding to threats. Unfortunately, it’s also responsible for unconscious biases about people. The stew of false stereotypes that exists in our culture—men make better leaders, women are more emotional, certain races or ethnicities are smarter or harder-working than others—gets lodged in our brains and is then used to make snap judgments about the people we interact with.
But there is a solution to this problem: learning to overcome bias against people through deliberate effort.
In our recently published book, Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences, my organizational consulting partner, Tiffany Jana, and I used the science of unconscious bias as the starting point for making practical recommendations to mitigate its impact on behavior. We’ve taken these lessons to hundreds of organizations, businesses, and communities that want to eliminate bias from the way they treat their colleagues, employees, and customers.
Here are some of the steps we recommend as a good way to begin fighting bias in yourself.

1. Pay attention to how your bias shapes your environment

This essay is adapted from <a href=“”><em>Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences</em></a> (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016, 144 pages)This essay is adapted from Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016, 144 pages)
Eliminating the impact of bias in your life requires you to acknowledge that it exists in the first place. Acknowledging that you have unconscious bias is not admitting a moral failing—this is part of the human condition.
Start a campaign of self-awareness, paying attention to the subtle ways in which bias may be impacting your behavior. Ask yourself: Are there people at work I always ask for advice, and others I ignore? Who is part of my friend group, and who might be missing?
You can also take an inventory of whom you trust. Just off the top of your head, name the top few people you would call if you received bad news or great news. How are those people similar to or different from you? Most of us trust others who are similar to us in significant ways.
Lastly, take an inventory of the media you are consuming—including news, books, music, TV shows, and movies. Are their perspectives basically similar to yours? Are the characters or authors telling stories that represent a different context from your own?
Once we acknowledge our bias and begin to pay attention to how it impacts us, we will be ready to do the work to overcome it.

2. Expose yourself to counter-stereotypical images

One of the most powerful ways to combat unconscious bias is to diversify the stories we encounter, so that we can connect with the humanity of people who may look and sound different to us. This means watching movies, reading books, or attending performances that target groups we are less familiar with.
It can also mean purposefully seeking inspiration from moral exemplars of different ethnicities, races, genders, and abilities. Studies have shown that being exposed to counter-stereotypical images and stories of people from other groups leads to less implicit bias.
My co-author, Tiffany Jana, shares a story in our book about how this worked for her. After a few negative experiences with Indian people in her workplace, she developed an unconscious bias against them, which she discovered later in her life was causing her to avoid all Indians. As she says:
It was not until I served on the board of directors for an innovative art gallery that my bias began to subside. I worked side-by-side with one of the most brilliant, engaging, and kind people I have ever known. My friend Prabir worked tirelessly to help the gallery become an East Coast destination and shape downtown Richmond, Virginia’s arts and culture scene. Five years of working toward the goal of bringing art to a great community alongside someone different from me changed my perspective and openness toward his entire demographic.

3. Reach out across difference

We can also seek ways to connect with people who are different from us in our everyday lives, whether at work or in our personal life.
That means keeping your eyes open and looking for opportunities rather than waiting for them to fall into your lap. For example, when you go to a work or social event, don’t simply scan the crowd for people you already know; look for people you don’t know—who might seem different from you—and see if you can strike up a conversation. Simple contact can be a powerful way to combat bias.

I took this step in my own life by joining an African-American church. As the only white person there, I initially felt awkward, unaware of social norms, and unfamiliar with the style of worship. Over time, however, I formed deep and meaningful relationships that have lasted over a decade, long after I stopped attending that church. The proactive step of seeking to make myself a minority in an everyday part of my life paid off through helping me take off my cultural blinders and form relationships with people I would have never met otherwise.

4.  Ask, don’t assume; listen, don’t judge

Once you expand your comfort zone through building new relationships and consuming different media, it becomes easier to include more people in your own circles of trust. And research has shown that cross-group friendships can make a big difference in reducing prejudice and bias.
But how to create that trust? By learning to ask rather than assume, and to listen rather than judge. In this way, we can stop the disconnection that may arise through misunderstanding.
In psychologist Beverly Tatum’s excellent book on racial identity development, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, she writes about how a typical racial disconnect happens between grade-school friends at a very young age.
Imagine an African-American student has a negative interaction with a teacher, which she perceives as racially motivated. She shares this with her lifelong white friend, whose immediate response is, “That teacher is great; I’m sure she isn’t racist!” That is the moment, according to Tatum, when self-segregation begins and kids start to look for others who can understand and discuss their experiences.
The antidote to this disconnection is authentic listening and learning to ask meaningful questions. Your friend’s interpretation of her negative experience may not be correct—perhaps the teacher wasn’t being racist or sexist. But if your first reaction is to tell her she’s wrong before you even listen to her, you are driving a wedge between you.
To authentically connect with people across differences, you must suspend your own judgment long enough to actually hear their experiences. Ask open-ended questions and seek to understand rather than to challenge or convince.
As hard as it can feel to confront your unconscious biases, with motivation and effort these simple steps can set you down that path. And building authentic relationships across differences is an essential part of your journey.