Saturday, October 21, 2017

Foods That Are Surprisingly High in Salt

Are You Getting Too Much Salt?

Most of us get more than we need. Recommendations from the American Heart Association and the U.S. government range from 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. If you want to cut back, you need to do more than ease up on the shaker on your table. Watch what you eat. You may be shocked by some of the foods that are high in salt.

Frozen Dinners

They're quick. They're easy. And they're loaded with sodium. A 5-ounce frozen turkey and gravy dinner packs 1,255 milligrams.

Tip: A 'lighter' version may have less salt, but it's no guarantee. Read the labels to be sure. It's possible that 'lighter' refers to fat only.

Ready-to-Eat Cereals

Check out the nutrition facts label. Some brands of raisin bran have up to 210 milligrams of sodium in each cup.

Tip: Puffed rice and wheat don't have salt. Mix half of your favorite cereal with half of a salt-free choice. Or look for companies that make low-sodium cereals.

Vegetable Juices

They help you get the 2 to 2.5 cups of veggies you need a day. But they can have a lot of sodium. One cup of vegetable juice cocktail has 615 milligrams.

Tip: Shop around. There are low-salt versions.

Canned Vegetables

They often have preservatives, sauces, or seasonings that add extra sodium.

Tips: Rinse canned veggies thoroughly, or look for labels that say 'no salt added' or 'low sodium.' Check the freezer section, where you may have more luck finding an unsalted choice.

Packaged Deli Meats

One look at the salt content in packaged meats should stop you in your tracks. Two slices of dry salami made of beef or pork can have 362 milligrams of sodium.


It's a warm comfort food on a cold day, but watch out. It can be loaded with salt. A cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have 831 milligrams of sodium.

Tips: Look for reduced-sodium versions of your favorites. And always check the label carefully. You might find that one brand's 'Healthy' version actually has less sodium than the '25% Less Sodium' variety.

Marinades and Flavorings

Some of your favorites may be super salty. One tablespoon of teriyaki sauce can have 879 milligrams of sodium. The same amount of soy sauce may have up to 1,005 milligrams.

Tips: Even 'lower-sodium' soy sauce can have a lot, so use it sparingly. Go for vinegar and lemon juice for flavor, since they naturally have less salt. Try orange or pineapple juice as a base for meat marinades.

Spaghetti Sauce

Half a cup may have 577 milligrams of sodium, and that's barely enough to coat a helping of pasta.

Tip: Look for 'no salt added' versions.

Spicing It Up

Adding spices to an entrée can be an easy way to forgo the salt shaker. Just make sure there's no hidden sodium in your selection. For example, canned jalapeno peppers (1/4 cup, solids and liquids) have about 434 milligrams of sodium.

Tips: Go for the pepper in its natural form to ditch the sodium used in processing. Or use herbs and salt-free spices instead.

Aw, Nuts!

Rethink those salty peanuts. An ounce of most dry-roasted brands have 116 milligrams of sodium.

Tips: For about the same amount of calories, an ounce of oil-roasted, salted peanuts has only 76 milligrams of sodium. Or better yet, buy the unsalted variety, which are practically sodium-free.

Salty Snacks

They're hard to resist, but they may have a lot of sodium. Potato chips have 136 milligrams per ounce, cheese puffs 263 milligrams per ounce, and pretzels 352 milligrams per ounce.

Tip: Even 'baked' or fat-free snacks can have the same amount of sodium or more, so check the label.

Prepackaged Foods

Rice, potatoes, and pasta in their natural forms are low in salt. But if you get the convenient 'all-in-one' box and add the flavor packet, you may end up eating more than half of your daily allowance of sodium in just one serving.

Tips: Choose a plain, fast-cooking rice and add your own seasonings. Or microwave potatoes to serve with your choice of fixings.

Condiments Count

If you think those little extras you add to your food aren't a source of salt, think again.

o Ketchup (1 tablespoon) = 154 milligrams
o Sweet relish (1 tablespoon) = 122 milligrams
o Capers (1 tablespoon) = 202 milligrams (drained)

Tip: Go for low- or sodium-free versions. Or get creative with substitutions: Try cranberry relish or apple butter for a naturally lower-salt choice.

Watch Serving Sizes

The amount of sodium you see on a nutrition label isn't for the whole package. It's for one serving. Check to see how many are in each container.

Food Label Claims

They can be confusing, but you can figure them out with this cheat sheet:

o Sodium-free: Less than 5 milligrams a serving
o Very low-sodium: 35 milligrams or less per serving
o Low-sodium: Less than 140 milligrams per serving
o Reduced sodium: 25% less sodium
o Unsalted, no salt added, or without added salt: Made without the salt normally used, but still has the sodium that's a natural part of the food itself.

What's in a Name?

When you're scanning a food label, don't just look for the word 'salt'. Watch out for various forms of sodium or other names for the same thing:

o Sodium alginate
o Sodium ascorbate
o Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
o Sodium benzoate
o Sodium caseinate
o Sodium chloride
o Sodium citrate
o Sodium hydroxide
o Sodium saccharin
o Sodium stearoyl lactylate
o Sodium sulfite
o Disodium phosphate
o Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
o Trisodium phosphate
o Na

Check Your Medicine Cabinet

Surprise! Some headache and heartburn medications have sodium carbonate or bicarbonate. Read the ingredient list and warning statement to be sure.

Restaurant Pitfalls

When you eat out, some menu choices can be a huge source of hidden salt. Soups, appetizers with cheese or meat, casseroles, and rice pilaf are some dishes to watch out for. If you ask, most restaurants will prepare your food without added salt.

Better Choices

Fish can be a lower-sodium option, as long as you pay attention to how it's seasoned. Steamed veggies, prepared without salt, are another smart choice. Also, try a salad with dressing on the side. Low-sodium desserts include fruit, ice cream, sherbet, or angel food cake.

Dining Out 'Dos'

o Ask how the cook prepares your meal.
o Choose a restaurant where dishes are made to order.
o Ask the chef to make your dish without any type of sodium, then add a dash of salt-free seasoning from home, or a squeeze of lemon or lime.

When You're Eating Fast Food

Try these helpful tips:

o Get rid of the toppings except for veggies like lettuce and tomatoes.
o Skip the cheese, go easy on condiments, and don't add salt.
o Don't supersize. Order off the children's menu for smaller portions.
o Eat a low-sodium diet for the rest of the day.
o Ask for a nutrition fact sheet at the restaurant, or find it online before you go, to help you make the best possible low-sodium choices.

Who Should Go Low-Sodium?

U.S. guidelines call for about half of Americans to limit sodium to 1,500 milligrams or less per day, including:

o People ages 51 and older
o African-Americans
o People with high blood pressure, diabetes, or long-term kidney disease

Cutting back on salt can cut blood pressure in some people. It can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage in those who have high blood pressure.

Track Your Salt

Don't know how much you get every day? Keep a daily tally of what you eat and drink. Then look up how much sodium is in each item. You may be surprised at what you find. The average American takes in 3,592 milligrams of sodium each day, well above the limits recommended for good health.

Inspirational Quote – October 21, 2017

“Positive mind, Positive vibes, Positive life.”

Sounds like a simple sum doesn’t it, Positive mind + Positive vibes = Positive life! I suppose, thinking about it a bit more, the end result is a no brainer! However, not so easy for some of us to feel positive especially if we feel that Life has been strewing one obstacle after another in our path. We’ve all been there at some time or another….just when we think we’ve successfully overcome a problem and are half way to breathing a sigh of relief, even before we can exhale, something else pops up to take its place! Well, all we can do is grit our teeth, pop a positive thought in our mind, allow it to generate positive vibes and of we go again! Positive life here we come!

People Helped You Whether You Knew It Or Not

William Weaver, currently the chief of surgery at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina, doesn't remember a single day in high school "that a teacher didn't tell him that he didn't belong." This was in Knoxville, Tennessee, where in 1964, he was one of 14 black students integrating the all-white West High School. He remembers his test papers being unfairly snatched from him so he got poor grades initially, never being acknowledged for his accomplishments by his school, and eventually, starting to think, something was wrong with him. How, then, in the face of racism and adversity, did Weaver stay motivated, graduate from college, and go on to become a successful doctor? This article shines light on Weaver's journey, and the mentor who cheered him on, visibly and invisibly, from the sidelines.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Why Eyelids Twitch and Muscles Spasm

Muscles Have a Mind of Their Own?

You tell your muscles what to do without thinking about it. But sometimes they do their own thing -- they might pulse or contract and can’t relax. Twitches and spasms are most common in the thighs, calves, hands, arms, belly, ribcage, and the arches of your foot. They can involve part of a muscle, all of it, or a group of muscles. Doctors aren’t always sure why they happen, but a few common triggers can set them off.

Eyelid Twitches

Eyelid feel like it's giving you Morse code? That's called myokymia. These random twitches, which can feel faint or really bug you, happen on the upper or lower lid. Triggers range from stress and smoking to wind, bright light, too much caffeine, and lack of sleep. Though annoying, the twitches are harmless and usually go away quickly, but they can come back over the next few days.

When Eyelid Twitches Don't Go Away

Twitches that last more than a few days could be a sign of an eye issue, like dry eyes or glaucoma. They could also happen if you have a problem that affects movement in your face muscles. In rare cases, eye twitches can be a sign of brain or nerve disorders like Bell's palsy, multiple sclerosis, and Tourette's syndrome. But these conditions will cause other symptoms, too.

Low in Electrolytes

Your muscles depend on minerals, like potassium and magnesium, to work properly. If you’re running low on them, your body sends you a message with cramps and spasms. Exercise or heavy sweating can deplete you, but some medications can, too. You might also lose too many electrolytes after a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.

Not Enough Water

If you don’t get enough to drink, your muscles will be more likely to twitch and spasm. It’s not just the water -- when you sweat a lot or lose body fluids when you’re sick, you also lose electrolytes, another common reason for twitching muscles.


You can sometimes blame stress for headaches or insomnia, but it can also cause tension and pain in your muscles. Try a relaxation technique, like massage or meditation, to work them out.

Too Much Caffeine

Caffeine can get you going in the morning and pull you out of the afternoon slump. But too much can trigger muscle twitches in various parts of your body. Other stimulant drugs, like amphetamines, have the same effect.

Lack of Sleep and Exhaustion

If you’re tired or run-down, twitches and spasms can be one way your body lets you know. Your muscles might also feel achy and sore or just generally weak.

You’re Out of Shape

If you notice spasms after a workout or walk, you may need to spend more time building your muscles. When you don’t work them enough, they’re more likely to get too tired -- and cramp up. Add strength training to your routine at least twice a week.


If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, your doctor may put you on water pills, also called diuretics. They make you pee more, which lowers the amount of potassium in your body -- and can bring on muscle spasms. Other medications, like some antidepressants, can cause twitches. Some epilepsy and psychosis drugs may make your eyelid twitch.

Serotonin Syndrome

If your muscles are twitching within a few hours of taking a new drug or changing your dose, call your doctor. You might have this condition, which happens when some medications, drugs, or supplements cause too much of the brain chemical serotonin to build up in your body.

Kidney Disease

Kidneys often don’t give early warning signs that they're slowing down. When they lose a lot of their ability to work, you might notice muscle cramps, along with other symptoms. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other kidney-related issues, check with your doctor if spasms start up.

Lou Gehrig's Disease

Twitching muscles in the hands and feet can be one of the early symptoms of this condition, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It happens because the nerves that send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles stop working. They send irregular messages before they stop sending them completely.

Pinched Spinal Nerve

When spinal nerves leave the spinal cord, they pass between the bones of the spine to specific parts of the body. Sometimes the disks between the bones slip or rupture and move, pinching the spinal nerve in the process. You might feel the changes in the muscles that nerve controls. Your doctor can diagnose the issue during a physical exam or with an MRI or CT scan.


When nerve cells are damaged, it changes the way they communicate with each other and with the brain. Twitches and spasms can be warning signs that this common condition is affecting the nerves that control your muscles. Some people are born with it, but it can happen because of an injury, infection, disease, alcoholism, and some medications. Diabetes is the leading cause of neuropathy.

Isaacs’ Syndrome

This rare condition happens when your nerves keep sending signals that make your muscles move, even though your brain or spinal cord isn’t telling them to. That causes muscle twitches, cramps, and stiffness. It may also make your muscles ripple, like something is moving under your skin. Also known as neuromyotonia or Isaacs-Mertens syndrome, the symptoms continue when you're asleep or under general anesthesia.

How Teens Today Are Different from Past Generations

A psychologist mines big data on teens and finds ten ways this generation—the “iGens"—is different from Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials.

Every generation of teens is shaped by the social, political, and economic events of the day. Today’s teenagers are no different—and they’re the first generation whose lives are saturated by mobile technology and social media.
In her new book, psychologist Jean Twenge uses large-scale surveys to draw a detailed portrait of ten qualities that make today’s teens unique and the cultural forces shaping them. Her findings are by turn alarming, informative, surprising, and insightful, making the book—iGen:Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us—an important read for anyone interested in teens’ lives.

Who are the iGens?

Twenge names the generation born between 1995 and 2012 “iGens” for their ubiquitous use of the iPhone, their valuing of individualism, their economic context of income inequality, their inclusiveness, and more.
She identifies their unique qualities by analyzing four nationally representative surveys of 11 million teens since the 1960s. Those surveys, which have asked the same questions (and some new ones) of teens year after year, allow comparisons among Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and iGens at exactly the same ages. In addition to identifying cross-generational trends in these surveys, Twenge tests her inferences against her own follow-up surveys, interviews with teens, and findings from smaller experimental studies. Here are just a few of her conclusions.
iGens have poorer emotional health thanks to new media. Twenge finds that new media is making teens more lonely, anxious, and depressed, and is undermining their social skills and even their sleep.
iGens “grew up with cell phones, had an Instagram page before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the Internet,” writes Twenge. They spend five to six hours a day texting, chatting, gaming, web surfing, streaming and sharing videos, and hanging out online. While other observers have equivocated about the impact, Twenge is clear: More than two hours a day raises the risk for serious mental health problems.
She draws these conclusions by showing how the national rise in teen mental health problems mirrors the market penetration of iPhones—both take an upswing around 2012. This is correlational data, but competing explanations like rising academic pressure or the Great Recession don’t seem to explain teens’ mental health issues. And experimental studies suggest that when teens give up Facebook for a period or spend time in naturewithout their phones, for example, they become happier.
The mental health consequences are especially acute for younger teens, she writes. This makes sense developmentally, since the onset of puberty triggers a cascade of changes in the brain that make teens more emotional and more sensitive to their social world.
Social media use, Twenge explains, means teens are spending less time with their friends in person. At the same time, online content creates unrealistic expectations (about happiness, body image, and more) and more opportunities for feeling left out—which scientists now know has similar effects as physical pain. Girls may be especially vulnerable, since they use social media more, report feeling left out more often than boys, and report twice the rate of cyberbullying as boys do.
Social media is creating an “epidemic of anguish,” Twenge says.
iGens grow up more slowly. iGens also appear more reluctant to grow up. They are more likely than previous generations to hang out with their parents, postpone sex, and decline driver’s licenses.
Twenge floats a fascinating hypothesis to explain this—one that is well-known in social science but seldom discussed outside academia. Life history theory argues that how fast teens grow up depends on their perceptions of their environment: When the environment is perceived as hostile and competitive, teens take a “fast life strategy,” growing up quickly, making larger families earlier, and focusing on survival. A “slow life strategy,” in contrast, occurs in safer environments and allows a greater investment in fewer children—more time for preschool soccer and kindergarten violin lessons.
“Youths of every racial group, region, and class are growing up more slowly,” says Twenge—a phenomenon she neither champions nor judges. However, employers and college administrators have complained about today’s teens’ lack of preparation for adulthood. In her popular book, How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims writes that students entering college have been over-parented and as a result are timid about exploration, afraid to make mistakes, and unable to advocate for themselves.
Twenge suggests that the reality is more complicated. Today’s teens are legitimately closer to their parents than previous generations, but their life course has also been shaped by income inequality that demoralizes their hopes for the future. Compared to previous generations, iGens believe they have less control over how their lives turn out. Instead, they think that the system is already rigged against them—a dispiriting finding about a segment of the lifespan that is designed for creatively reimagining the future.
iGens exhibit more care for others. iGens, more than other generations, are respectful and inclusive of diversity of many kinds. Yet as a result, they reject offensive speech more than any earlier generation, and they are derided for their “fragility” and need for “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.” (Trigger warnings are notifications that material to be covered may be distressing to some. A safe space is a zone that is absent of triggering rhetoric.)
Today’s colleges are tied in knots trying to reconcile their students’ increasing care for others with the importance of having open dialogue about difficult subjects. Dis-invitations to campus speakers are at an all-time high, more students believe the First Amendment is “outdated,” and some faculty have been fired for discussing race in their classrooms. Comedians are steering clear of college campuses, Twenge reports, afraid to offend.

The future of teen well-being

<a href=“”><em>iGen:Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us</em></a> (Atria Books, 2017, 352 pages)iGen:Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us (Atria Books, 2017, 352 pages)

Social scientists will discuss Twenge’s data and conclusions for some time to come, and there is so much information—much of it correlational—there is bound to be a dropped stitch somewhere. For example, life history theory is a useful macro explanation for teens’ slow growth, but I wonder how income inequality or rising rates of insecure attachments among teens and their parents are contributing to this phenomenon. And Twenge claims that childhood has lengthened, but that runs counter to data showing earlier onset of puberty.
So what can we take away from Twenge’s thoughtful macro-analysis? The implicit lesson for parents is that we need more nuanced parenting. We can be close to our children and still foster self-reliance. We can allow some screen time for our teens and make sure the priority is still on in-person relationships. We can teach empathy and respect but also how to engage in hard discussions with people who disagree with us. We should not shirk from teaching skills for adulthood, or we risk raising unprepared children. And we can—and must—teach teens that marketing of new media is always to the benefit of the seller, not necessarily the buyer.
Yet it’s not all about parenting. The cross-generational analysis that Twenge offers is an important reminder that lives are shaped by historical shifts in culture, economy, and technology. Therefore, if we as a society truly care about human outcomes, we must carefully nurture the conditions in which the next generation can flourish.
We can’t market technologies that capture dopamine, hijack attention, and tether people to a screen, and then wonder why they are lonely and hurting. We can’t promote social movements that improve empathy, respect, and kindness toward others and then become frustrated that our kids are so sensitive. We can’t vote for politicians who stall upward mobility and then wonder why teens are not motivated. Society challenges teens and parents to improve; but can society take on the tough responsibility of making decisions with teens’ well-being in mind?
The good news is that iGens are less entitled, narcissistic, and over-confident than earlier generations, and they are ready to work hard. They are inclusive and concerned about social justice. And they are increasingly more diverse and less partisan, which means they may eventually insist on more cooperative, more just, and more egalitarian systems.
Social media will likely play a role in that revolution—if it doesn’t sink our kids with anxiety and depression first.

Inspirational Quote – October 20, 2017

“Live in such a way that if someone spoke badly of you, no one would believe it.”

I may be totally deluded or having a “senior moment” but I believe most people do try to live their lives by being the type of person that other people speak kindly of. I know I try to and I imagine you do too. Living your life, mindful of the feelings of others, showing kindness and compassion, being honorable in whatever you do, being loyal, all paints a picture of how the people you know “see” you. So, if your portrait does you justice and it’s one that people respect and admire, then woe betide anyone who speaks badly or disparagingly of you. Isn’t that a nice thought?

How Trauma Lodges in the Body

Human memory is a sensory experience, says psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk. Through his longtime research and innovation in trauma treatment, he shares what he's learning about how bodywork like yoga or eye movement therapy can restore a sense of goodness and safety. What he's learning speaks to a resilience we can all cultivate in the face of overwhelming events -- which, after all, make up the drama of culture, of news, and of life.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Disaster Mental Health

Nancy Haugen, PhD specializes in 'Disaster Mental Health' created some 'Cliff's Notes' to keep in mind so that we can all be empowered to support mental health for those in pain.

1. Whereas in the Emergency Room there is the Golden Hour (time to get to the ER when there has been a trauma), in Disaster Mental Health there is the Golden Month. There are 30 days from the point of the disaster, to make a major difference. Any intervention, support, kindness that can happen during those 30 days will change the long-term outcome. It is significant.
2. Given how the brain shuts down in a disaster, victims are not able to process words very well. They WILL track on tone of your voice and your body posture.
3. Don’t problem solve, most important task is to just LISTEN.
4. Sharing where resources are is important – if possible, give a written form of the list so that they can refer to it later. They won’t remember much if you just tell them.
5. Asking open ended questions (How can I help?) are not helpful because it asks too much of the victim’s brain to figure that out. Present two choices with yes or no answer (May I drop off food Friday or Saturday?)
6. After the fires are contained, and the media leaves (referred to as the Honeymoon period – “we’re going to make it! We’re going to stick together!), most victims experience depression. The research indicates that the depression will last for a while, so keep in mind that ongoing supportive gestures, any intervention, support, kindness, is still needed. After the depression period lifts (can be as long as a couple years), people most often report that they feel that they have a new life. 

How to Help Teens Become More Self-Compassionate

Self-compassion may be key to supporting teen mental health. Dr. Karen Bluth shares lessons from her mindful self-compassion program.

Leslie came to the first class of my course on self-compassion for teens with a definitive chip on her shoulder. She refused to sit with the group, standing on the perimeter with arms defiantly crossed and eyes narrowed. There was no doubt of the message she was conveying: “Don’t you dare try to make me participate in this class.”
I didn’t. I knew better.
During a self-compassion meditation, I sensed Leslie shifting uncomfortably in her seat. She breathed heavily from time to time. But when the meditation ended, her face had changed; the anger and resistance had dissolved and tears were rolling down her cheeks. Through her sobs, Leslie explained that she didn’t want to be here, that all her friends were together at a football game and her mom made her come to this class. We breathed with her during her story and welcomed her tidal wave of emotions. In the course, we always allow emotions to be present, no matter how overwhelming, in an effort to help teens learn how to deal with them.
The class ended. Leslie bolted out, ran down the hall, and was gone. All week I wondered if she would be back for the next session.
The class I was teaching was called Making Friends with Yourself: A Mindful Self-Compassion Program for Teens (MFY). It focuses on the specific skills of how to be kinder to yourself—as pioneering self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff puts it, treating yourself as you would a good friend who was struggling. Sad to say, almost 80 percent of us treat others with more compassion and kindness than we offer to ourselves. When our friends have a bad day, we support them in every way we know how; when we’re having a bad day or fail at something, we generally beat ourselves up with self-criticism.
And teens? They beat themselves up even more. As their cognitive capabilities become enhanced in early adolescence, teens become more self-aware and, subsequently, more self-conscious. Psychologist David Elkind calls this phenomenon “the imaginary audience,” because teens often believe that others are as attentive and aware of them as they are of themselves. This microscopic examination generally breeds harsh self-criticism, so the need for self-compassion among teens is paramount.
Research has shown that teens (and adults) can benefit from self-compassion in a variety of ways. For teens, self-compassion appears to have a protective effect against traumapeer victimizationdepression and self-harm, and low self-esteem. Contrary to what some believe, studies suggest that self-compassionate people have greater motivation to improve, not less: They don’t let themselves off the hook for bad behavior but confront their shortcomings head-on. Self-compassionate people don’t get mired in selfishness or self-pity, but actually have greater compassion toward others.
At a time when depression and suicide rates are high, more and more research is starting to show how crucial self-compassion can be to teen mental health. Having taught self-compassion to teens for a number of years, I’ve seen the benefits firsthand—and learned some lessons about how to get the message across.

How we teach self-compassion to teens

Making Friends with Yourself is an eight-week course created by UC San Diego’s Lorraine Hobbs and myself, as an adaptation of the adult Mindful Self-Compassion course by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. Classes include developmentally appropriate exercises such as mindful art and movement, music meditation, and short videos on topics like the changing adolescent brain. MFY teaches teens how to let go of pervasive self-criticism and judgment, be kind to themselves, and begin on the path of accepting themselves exactly as they are.
Our teachings at these classes follow the three components of self-compassion:
Common humanity. Teens come to understand that they are not alone. That what they are experiencing—feelings of insecurity, exclusion, or sadness, for example—is common to all teens (even though it may not seem that way). That there are actually biological reasons—changes happening in the brain—that make them feel the way they do. Teens learn that it isn’t their fault, and there’s nothing wrong with them.
Mindfulness. When teens feel as if they’re about to burst from all the emotions mounting up inside, we teach them to bring attention to their feet, and just notice what the bottoms of their feet feel like. As their mind wanders, we guide them to bring their attention back.
Self-kindness. We invite teens to put their hands over their heart, stroke their cheek, or give themselves a hug, which actually can elicit certain hormones—oxytocin and opiates—that make them feel better. We remind them that what they are going through right now is hard—that, by definition, being a teen means dealing with a lot. We encourage them to take a moment to say some kind words or do something nice for themselves.
Most of all, the goal of MFY is to let teens know that these years don’t have to be as painful as they sometimes are, that there is a way out of their pain, and that there are things they can do to better cope in the moment. They can become more resilient.

Why today’s teens need self-compassion

As research on the program continues to grow, we are hoping to bring MFY to teens who are particularly in need—the ones most at risk for depression, eating disorders, gender dysphoria, and suicide.
In pilot studies, teens who have taken MFY have shown improvements in mental health after the class compared to when they started. In particular, teens who become more mindful also become less depressed, less stressed, and less anxious. Teens who grow in self-compassion also become less depressed and stressed, as well as more resilient and better able to embrace new experiences.
Through a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Program on Integrative Medicine is currently investigating whether MFY can prevent depression in teens who are showing some initial signs of depression. In August, Lorraine Hobbs and I were invited to lead a two-day MFY workshop for educators, community leaders, and teens in Port Townsend, Washington, where 15-year-old Benji Kenworthy died by suicide in 2015. Earlier that summer, Lorraine and I traveled to the Arctic in northern Quebec to teach the adult Mindful Self-Compassion course to Inuit teachers so they could eventually teach MFY to the region’s teens, whose suicide rate is 11 times the national average.
Back at the second week of my course, Leslie showed up. And she returned the next week, and the next. Her face was no longer strained, but softened. She contributed to our class discussions and became an integral part of our group. After the last class, she shared that she really enjoyed MFY, and was sorry that she was so irritable that first day. Eight months later, her mother emailed me to see if there was some way to bring MFY into the middle school where she worked as a teacher. All teens need this class, she expressed.
It seems that when you take the time to be kind to yourself, you realize that you do deserve this kindness, you are valued and valuable, you have a unique role on this planet, and you deserve to do well. You believe in yourself. And what greater gift can we give to our teens?