Tuesday

Stop Spinning; Start Listing

Ever feel so overwhelmed -- or agitated -- that it's hard to think clearly? 

Whether it's relationship conflict, financial worries, fear, anxiety, or the stress of daily life, it's common for people under pressure to experience racing thoughts -- sometimes to an almost vertiginous degree.
That state of confused thinking actually -- and paradoxically -- creates even more confusion, anxiety and stress. Thoughts spinning out of control feel a lot like life spinning out of control.

To resolve scattered, racing thoughts we offer a practical, mindful, quick fix:

Scattered Thinking? Make a list!
Filling pages with random thoughts feels cathartic,
but clarity of thought requires lists.
Pulling out a sheet of paper (or opening a blank document) is a deliberate, conscious act that allows you to slow yourself down, and beginning a list prompts you to start organizing your thinking. 

We advocate mindfulness as a critical component of good mental health. Mindfulness improves your internal states, and produces subtle, positive mood, energy, and behavioral shifts.(1) As you mindfully create lists you begin to feel rational, calm, and confident. List-making is itself a creative act, focusing attention and stopping the mind from automatic, habitual patterns of agitated thinking. From this state it becomes possible to slow your breathing, observe yourself, calm your thinking, and stay in the moment.

Bonus: Lists become to-do lists, and when things get done, you build your sense of accomplishment -- a big part of healthy self-esteem. 

(1) Miklowitz, D. J., Alatiq, Y., Goodwin, G. M., Geddes, J. R., Fennell, M. J. V., Dimidjian, S., Hauser, M., and Williams, J. M. G. (2009). "A Pilot Study of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Bipolar Disorder." International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 2(4), 373–382.



Saturday

A Rash of Rashness

When we counsel clients in difficult relationships, one of the curious patterns we see is a tendency toward impulsivity. We've seen it so often, in fact, that we've begun to believe it may be the most malignant of all relationship behaviors. 

Impulsive people say and do hurtful things to the people they love, and tend to suffer problems at work, with law enforcement, and in completing projects. If you look back at your own regrets, you'll likely find that nearly all of them arose out of an impulsive act.

When people are able to master their impulsivity, wonderful things start to occur in their marriages: Escalation ends, hearing happens, defensiveness discontinues, and intimacy is initiated.

Impulsivity: The Root of Regret. Considered Decisions Bring Joy.

New research backs us up. A study out of the University of Georgia finds that among married couples, there is a significant correlation between high levels of impulsiveness, and low levels of marital satisfaction and commitment. Impulsivity is also correlated with high levels of verbal aggression.(1)  

Bottom line? Slowing down is a fast fix for many relationship problems. And it's a fairly easy correction: Just take a deep breath, think carefully before you speak, and watch intimacy grow! 

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(1) Lavner, J. A., Lamkin, J., & Miller, J. D. (2017). Trait Impulsivity and Newlyweds' Marital Trajectories. Journal of Personality Disorders, 31(1), 133-144. doi:10.1521/pedi_2016_30_242

Monday

Optimism: The Happy Fix for Stress and PTSD

Happy and you know it? Congrats! New research out this month demonstrates, once again, the power of optimism to make life better. One new study shows that after traumatic events, optimistic people are better equipped to cope with intrusive thoughts and anxiety, and -- unlike their pessimistic peers -- don't develop avoidance, numbing, or "dysphoric arousal." (1)

Another new study finds when performing stressful tasks, optimistic people are better at perseverance, and also have lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. (Lower levels of cortisol are correlated with happiness and positive affect.) (2)

So jump on the positivity bandwagon to stay happy and healthy!

Pronoia: The Optimistic Belief that People Like You, and Conspire in Your Favor

(1) Birkeland, M. S., Blix, I., Solberg, Ø., & Heir, T. (2017). Does optimism act as a buffer against posttraumatic stress over time? A longitudinal study of the protective role of optimism after the 2011 Oslo bombing. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, And Policy, 9(2), 207-213. doi:10.1037/tra0000188

(2) Binsch, O., Van Wietmarschen, H., & Buick, F. (2017). Relationships between cortisol, optimism, and perseverance measured in two military settings. Military Psychology, 29(2), 99-116. doi:10.1037/mil0000146

Sunday

True Things

Other People Are Allowed Their Faulty Perceptions; There's No Need to Respond.

No great person has been universally loved. Spending precious time trying to change other people's opinions of you is a Sisyphean task. Better to put your energy into being your best self, and let other people's opinions fall where they will.