Friday, October 20, 2017

Bumper Stickers, 3

  • Humans come into the world naked, wet, and hungry—then things get sticky.
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
  • Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.
  • Out of my mind...Back in five minutes.
  • Hang up and pay attention to driving.
  • Take an IQ test. I did. Got an “F”
  • Ever stop to think and forget to start again?
  • Treat your kids kindly as they’ll be selecting your nursing home.
  • Always remember you're unique...Just like everyone else.
  • If you think nobody cares, miss a couple payments.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Exercise & Depression, 4

In a TV interview, the former first lady basically said that a sedentary lifestyle is killing Americans. Unfortunately, sedentary lifestyles are becoming even more common throughout the world. Rates of depression appear to be growing, as well. The results of this survey are particularly pertinent because they reveal that even small lifestyle changes can reap significant mental health benefits. Dr. Harvey, lead researcher, says they are still trying to determine the reason that exercise appears to have this protective effect. It may be due to the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity. Harvey says he believes there is great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns. “If we can find ways to increase the population’s level of physical activity even by a small amount, then this is likely to bring substantial physical and mental health benefits.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Exercise & Depression, 3

Dr Samuel Harvey, lead author for the largest survey of its kind for any link between exercise and depression, said, “We’ve known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression. These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise, from a minimum of one hour per week, has the potential to deliver significant protection against depression. Dr. Harvey found it fascinating that the first hour of exercise turned out to be crucial. Most of the mental health benefits of exercise were realized within the first hour of exercise undertaken each week. The researchers concluded that just one hour of exercise a week reduced the chances of developing depression by a massive 44%.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Exercise & Depression, 2

In the largest survey of its kind, researchers monitored 33,908 “healthy” Norwegians for more than 11 years. The cohort of adults were selected on the basis of having no symptoms of common mental disorder or limiting physical health conditions. Validated measures of exercise, depression, anxiety, and a range of potential confounding and mediating factors were collected. The practice of regular leisure-time exercise was associated with a reduced incidence of future depression but not of anxiety. The majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity. After adjustment for confounders, the population attributable fraction suggests that, assuming the relationship is causal, researchers estimated that 12% of future cases of depression could have been prevented by just one hour of exercise per week. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Exercise & Depression

Dr. Samuel Harvey is the lead author of a study that evaluated the impact of exercise on depression and anxiety. The results were reported this month on line. According to the study abstract, the purpose of this study was to address:

1)   whether exercise provides protection against new-onset depression and anxiety

2) if so, the intensity and amount of exercise required to gain protection

3) The mechanisms that underlie any association between exercise, depression, and anxiety.

In the largest survey of its kind, the anxiety and depression levels of 33,908 Norwegians were monitored for more than 11 years.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lectins, 2

Lectins may be harmful, at least for some people, if consumed in excess in uncooked or improperly-cooked forms. Some think that the negative effects of lectins are due to gastrointestinal distress through interaction of the lectins with cells in the intestines. Symptoms of toxicity may include diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and vomiting. Some have suggested that there are ways to reduce the toxicity of lectins. For example: soaking legumes and beans for a couple of hours in water with a little added lemon juice and then cooking them in a pressure cooker. Thinking back to my childhood, I recall that my mother always cooked legumes and beans in a pressure cooker. I think I’ll get one and try doing this myself. Can’t hurt!

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Lectin is the name for a type of protein that is concentrated more in some foods than others. Foods with the highest lectin activity include: grains (especially wheat), legumes (especially soy), some nuts, dairy, and nightshades (e.g. eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc.). The frequent consumption of large amounts of lectins has been shown potentially to damage the lining of the digestive system. An article published in April of 2017 suggests that lectins can cause disease. Some lectins can actually move through the intestinal wall and even deposit themselves in distant organs. If you are interested more information can be found at this link.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rat Leptin Studies

Studies with rats have shown that Leptin resistance (in combination with insulin resistance and weight gain) is seen in rats after they are given unlimited access to palatable, energy-dense foods. This effect can be reversed when the rats are again fed a better diet and are not given unlimited access to the food. This suggests the value of human beings moving toward a balanced intake of foods that are unrefined along with appropriate portion control. Interestingly, this approach is what is mirrored in the Longevity Lifestyle Matters program. Studies in 2008 (led by Shapiro) and in 2010 (led by Oswal) suggest that that the main role of leptin is to act as a starvation signal when levels are low and to help maintain fat stores for survival, rather than a satiety signal to prevent overeating. Leptin levels signal when an animal has enough stored energy to spend it in pursuits besides acquiring food.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Leptin Sensitivity

In obesity, a decreased sensitivity to leptin can occur. The consequences of this result in the person’s inability to detect satiety, even though there may be high energy stores. No surprise, any decline in the level of circulating leptin impacts brain activity in areas that involve the cognitive and/or emotional control of appetite. In 1996 a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine [334 (5): 292–5] reported that while leptin typically reduces appetite as a circulating signal, obese individuals generally exhibit a higher circulating concentration of leptin than normal weight individuals This is likely due to their higher percentage of body fat. In addition, they also ten to show leptin resistance similar to the insulin resistance seen in people with type 2 diabetes. However, the elevated levels of leptin fail to control hunger or modulate their weight.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Leptin vs Lectin

I know it can be confusing since there is only a one-letter difference between these two words. It’s worth paying attention to what they mean or represent, however. Leptin is an extremely vital and valuable hormone. When you hear the word Leptin, think “thin.” Really. Because it comes from a Greek word meaning thin. Made by fat cells, this substance—known as the “satiety hormone” is designed to put on the hunger brakes. Leptin is opposite—no surprise—from grehlin, its opposing hormone known as the “hunger hormone.” Both hormones can bind to receptors in the hypothalamus to regulate appetite: Grehlin pushes you to eat; leptin says that you have enough energy and need no more food. More tomorrow.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Brain and Hugs, 2

Sheldon Cohen, who led the study on hugging at Carnegie Mellon University, said that the research” suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress. The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy. Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection." “But I live alone and there’s no one to hug,” some say. That may be a challenge although just because you live with someone doesn’t guarantee a good hug. There are families that live together but fail to hug each other. Fortunately, I have a few relatives and a couple close friends who are skilled huggers—it’s both an art and a science and may be the ultimate “being rather than doing” affirmation. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Brain and Hugs

Research at Carnegie Mellon University studying the impact of conflict and social support—including hugging by trusted persons. Lead researcher Sheldon Cohen and associates assessed 404 healthy individuals including the frequencies of interpersonal conflicts and receiving hugs. The 404 participants were then exposed to a cold virus and quarantined to assess for infection and symptoms of illness. They found?

  • Perceived social support reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing conflicts. Hugs were responsible for one-third of the protective effect of social support

  • Among participants who became infected, greater perceived social support and more frequent hugs both resulted in less severe illness symptoms whether or not they experienced conflicts 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Are You A ‘Hugger?’

"Are you a “hugger?” Did you come from a family of “huggers?” Growing up I hugged my pets (the ones that were huggable – it’s a tad difficult to hug a snail or a box turtle or even a parakeet!) I sometimes hugged close friends (but not always as hugging was never a measure of how much I cared about and valued a specific individual). It’s commonly understood that ongoing stressors such as conflict with others can reduce immune system function and increase the risk of infection. And the brain and immune system have their hands in each other's pockets, so to speak. Recently research by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University looked at conflict and social support—including hugging by trusted persons—and its association with risk of infection and with severity of illness symptoms. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tell Your Brain to Sleep

“Don’t Sleep Well!” I hear this from people all over the world! My first response is “Stop telling your brain anything that you do not wish to be true.” When you say ‘I don’t sleep well,’ a representation of what they means goes into working memory, located directly behind your forehead. Your brain perceives that ‘if you put it into working memory it must be information to you,’ and the brain does everything it can to help you achieve that goal. In this case, not sleeping well. Therefore, knowing that sleep is independently linked with longevity and that your brain appears to be cleared of toxins during sleep, change what you tell your brain. It can only do what it thinks it can do and you tell it what it can do through your thoughts, self-talk, and directions to your brain. I perceive of my brain as a connected although separate entity so I talk to my brain using the pronoun you. Most nights I tell my brain: “Arlene, you are falling asleep quickly and easily and waking up at ____________ am.” And in most cases that’s exactly what happens.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sleep and Brain Work

Results of the new study, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH, suggests that during sleep the brain is cleared of damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration. Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., leader of the study. Not only is sleep important for storing memories, it may be also be the period when the brain cleanses itself of toxic molecules. It appears that during sleep a plumbing system called the glymphatic system opens, letting fluid flow rapidly through the brain. Glial cells help control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, through the glymphatic system by shrinking or swelling. Since this appears to happen only during sleep, it highlights the critical importance of sleep in clearing the brain of toxins.

Xie et al “Sleep initiated fluid flux drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain.” Science, October 18, 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1241224

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Brain, Sleep, and Toxins, 2

Researchers measured how long the dye lasted in the brain when the mice were asleep versus awake. They found that the dye flowed rapidly through mice brains when the mice were unconscious, either asleep or anesthetized. In contrast, the dye barely flowed when the same mice were injected with labeled beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid disappeared faster in mice brains when the mice were asleep, suggesting sleep normally clears toxic molecules from the brain. “These results may have broad implications for multiple neurological disorders,” said Jim Koenig, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS. It also suggests a new role for sleep and may highlight the critical importance of sleep for prevention as well as healthy on-going brain care. “We need sleep. It cleans up the brain,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and a leader of the study.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Brain, Sleep, and Toxins

Researchers say that toxic molecules involved in neurodegenerative disorders accumulate in the space between brain cells. In a new study funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH, researchers tested how these toxins are cleared from the brain. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. To determine whether the glymphatic system controls this process, researchers initially injected dye into the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) of mice and watched it flow through their brains while simultaneously monitoring electrical brain activity. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Brain and More Sleep, 2

Estimates are that the brain uses about 20-25 percent of the body’s total fuel consumption (even though the brain is about two percent of your total weight). What does it use this energy for, what does it do with it? According to Matthew Edlund, MD, in The Power of Rest, “most of the time and energy the brain uses is spent “talking to itself.” He references work by Neuroscientist Marcus Raichle, reported in an article in Science magazine (“The Brain’s Dark Energy”). He used the metaphor of dark energy because so much of what the brain does is unknown. In fact, Dr. Raichle estimates that between 60-80 percent of the brain’s total energy consumption is used communicating between individual neurons and their support cells. It would be fascinating to know exactly what they are saying to each other.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Brain and More Sleep

No doubt you’re familiar with the statistics that suggest 20 hours without sleep and your brain is likely functioning as a brain would that has reached the legal limit of alcohol intoxication. Studies also show that the sleep deprived brain often things it is “doing just fine, thank you very much,” when in fact is it not doing very well at all. Conclusions of research related to ‘accidents,’ vehicular as well as equipment, suggest that lack of sleep played a part in many of them. Each brain has an optimum sleep requirement. Mine is between 8-9 hours depending on how much challenging mental work my brain is doing, since it may take longer to recover from mental work as compared with physical work. What happens during sleep? More tomorrow.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Brain and Sleep

Generally I am very careful about giving my brain the sleep it needs. Recently I was meeting a deadline for some musical compositions and got only six hours of sleep one night instead of 9 (the amount my brain seems to need). The next day my brain was not firing efficiently on all cylinders. I misplaced my car keys, sent a computer file twice instead of two separate files, and included the same illustrations in two different chapters in my latest manuscript. It would be humorous if not so pathetic! In addition, I was scheduled to record musical interludes for insertion between chapters of one of my audio books. My executive producer—whose brain is wonderfully creative and one of my favorites on this planet—managed to get me through recording the last 8 selections—but it was like slogging through hot thick tar instead of swimming in Caribbean seas—fortunately he is a very patient man. I went to bed very early that night!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

TV and Affirmations

 How much television you watch on a daily basis? First of all, watching TV is a 'passive picturing' activity. Your brain is just processing what other brains created. Second, I've been hard put to count very many 'affirming' comments on the average program. What you 'put in' your brain tends to 'put out.'  One reported daily average in the United States is 4 hours of TV viewing per day; 3 hours a day in Australia. Mostly I watch some TV when the Olympics are playing. I love to watch brains do their thing in real time. Four hours a day? Never! Recently I ran across the results of a six-year study of 8,800 Australian men and women (over age 25 with no history of heart disease) that was reported in the journal Circulation. Those who watched more than 4 hours of TV a day had an 80% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease over the 6-year time period as compared with people who watched 2 hours or less each day. The bottom line conclusion of the study? Too much TV is bad for your health. You may want to check out an article by Mark Stibich, PhD, on the topic.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Children Believe . . .

Studies have shown that children believe what they are told. If they didn’t, likely the customs of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and others would gradually die away. Children also believe what they hear people say about them and directly to them. I certainly did! I not only believed it but also acted on it for way too long! In reality, however well-meant (or not), each brain only has its own opinion and can only share that opinion—unless it purports to share something it got from another brain. Because I became so clear about this, I now often preface a remark with, “My brain’s opinion is . . .” or “I am happy to share my brain’s opinion with you. . .” I encourage every brain to go through a similar type of exercise to avoid blindly following someone else’s script that may have little if anything to do with their own brain.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Childhood Programming

As I was working on my latest manuscript “I Chose Hope—and that Made the Difference,” it became clear that my journey toward discoveryto viewing my life in color rather than in black and whitereally began when I decided to go back in memory and recall and identify to the best of my ability what I’d heard and had been told during childhood: what I’d heard people say about me and what individuals had directly said to me (verbally or nonverbally) about who I was or was not, what I was or was not capable of doing, what I could or could not pursue in terms of options, and whether I would likely be successful or unsuccessful. Metaphorically, “start reading the script that was handed to me at birth (if not before). What I uncovered was a bit disconcerting because it became clear that for whatever reason, I had “believed” what I had heard and had been told. I had internalized their words to represent genuine and absolute truth—rather than perceiving that what they thought was only their brain’s opinion based on their own learning and life experience. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Choose Close Friends Carefully

In life it is critically important to select your friends carefully for any number of reasons. Studies have shown that you become the average of the four or five people with whom you spent the most time. Studies have also shown that within a period of two or three years, you have an increased risk for picking up the behavioral patterns of those same individuals. This is especially true in relations to smoking, eating, obesity, exercising, and happiness, etc.. Take obesity, for example. Researchers have discovered that people whose close friends were obese were fifty-seven percent more likely to become obese, as well—and obesity is associated with more than 50 diseases including dementia. This doesn’t mean that you “will” mimic their behaviors but that it is more likely that this will happen—you have an increased risk.” Part of this susceptibility may be due to mirror neurons in your pre-frontal cortex ‘firing’ as you watch other do a behavior. Part is likely due to the conversations you have with those friends and what you hear them say to themselves and to others.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Aphorisms, 13

  • This too shall pass; it might pass like a kidney stone but it will pass
  • Life takes you to unexpected places—love brings you home
  • To those who know they are loved, a kind word is a morsel; to those who are love-starved, a kind word is a banquet
  • Love is all around you but you may miss it unless you open your heart and look for it
  • Help your brain enjoy the rewards of driving its own vehicle: your brain
  • It’s far easier to be rude to words on a screen than rude to a face—either way you can’t take them back
  • Play ‘till the end—miracles still happen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Crafting Affirmations

“But I do not know what words to use!” is a comment I sometimes hear. As far as I know, there is no encyclopedia of “perfect affirmations.” By staying aware of what you tell yourself and listening to the style used by others when giving directions, it becomes easier and easier to recognize effective versus ineffective styles. I ask myself, “Do the words create a one-step picture or do they create a two-step picture that requires the brain to change the first picture into something else?” I was discussing Dr. Wegner’s work with a group of college freshman and said, “Don’t think about the white bear.” One of those college brains said, “Okay that tells me what not to do. What do you want me to do?” Another brain said, “Think about a brown bear.” The first brain asked, “Is that what you want me to think about? A brown bear?” It was such a clear example of unclear instructions.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Brain Susceptibility

Your brain is susceptible to what others say about you and may even record that (along with what you say to and about yourself) in the same place in the brain—so it is important to protect your brain (insofar as it is possible to do so) from negative input. Children are less able to do that. Consequently it is critical to evaluate what you were told about yourself and what you heard others say about yourself—or you may be risk for believing them. What they said was only their brain’s opinion but if you believed them if could derail your success or even influence you not to do something that your brain could be very good at doing. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Three Caveats

Your brain can only do what it thinks it can do—and you are the one who tells it what it can do.

Your brain believes what you tell it and then does everything it can to make what you are saying to and about yourself happen.

If you think you can or you think you can’tyou’re right.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pygmalion Effect

Admittedly studies of the Pygmalion effect are difficult to conduct because they must be done in an unnatural and controlled environment which is not ‘real life,’ as some put it. Nevertheless, study results have shown a positive correlation between leader expectation and follower performance. Researchers have argued that the perceptions a leader has of a follower can cause the Pygmalion effect. That a leader's expectations are influenced by their perception of the situation or the followers themselves. And it is possible that perception and expectation may even be found in a similar part in the brain. Anecdotally, many report observing the Pygmalion effect in personal and professional relationships, in homes, schools, and in the workplace. [Whiteley, P., Sy, T., & Johnson, S. (2012). "Leaders' conceptions of followers: Implications for naturally occurring pygmalion effects". The Leadership Quarterly, 23(5), 822–834. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.03.006] More tomorrow.

Friday, September 8, 2017


Some are frightened by the term affirmations as they think it involves some type of self-fulfilling prophecy or is part of the law of attraction, so called, or are scarily powerful. Affirmations are powerful. You may have heard of the Pygmalion effect (named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion), the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. It is also known as the Rosenthal effect (named for Dr. Robert Rosenthal, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UC Riverside and arguably the expert on self-fulfilling prophecy. Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson believed a study they did supported the hypothesis that reality can be positively or negatively influenced by the expectations of others, called the observer-expectancy effect—arguing that biased expectancies could affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophecies. The corollary to the Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect is the Golon effect: the phenomenon whereby low expectations lead to a decrease in performance. [Rosenthal, Robert; Jacobson, Lenore (1992). Pygmalion in the classroom (Expanded ed.)] 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Flattery vs Affirmations

“When I try to be affirming,” one person told me, “my words come across as flattery and that’s embarrassing.” Understand that affirmations and flattery reside on different planets. Flattery can be described as insincere and excessive praise, compliments, or adulation—given to further one's own interests or advance one’s own goals or manipulate another into agreeing to something they might not otherwise do. It involves using complimentary words to obtain what one wants, as in an attempt to initiate a romantic or sexual encounter or to obtain a financial or social advantage. Think of flattery as Most associations with flattery are negative—even in history. Dante reportedly thought flattery was so offensive that he compared flattering words to human excrement. Now that’s quite a mental picture! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Talking to Others, Cont’d

Visiting in a home recently, a couple 3-year olds (a girl and a boy) were playing with large blow-up balls about 18 inches in diameter. There were at least 4 balls, but the energetic and typically active little boy was trying to grab all the balls. Each time the little girl got one, he took it from her, which triggered her tears. “Don’t take her ball,” the mother kept saying. The little boy kept taking it. His mother’s voice rose in volume. No behavioral change. I suggested she say, “Give one ball to the little girl.” She looked at me like I was from another planet, rolled her eyes, and then said, “Give one ball to the little girl.” Immediately, the little boy walked over and handed the little girl a ball, and returned to playing with the other three. The mother looked like she actually might faint on the spot. Her son had followed the picture her words created in his brain.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Talking to Others

This new self-talk style applies not only to personal self-talk, it can also apply to addressing others, children especially. “Don’t forget your homework” is less effective than “Joan, remember your homework.” “Don’t be late to fencing class,” is less helpful than “Jay, be on time to your fencing class.” It this self-talk style a guarantee of 100% compliance? Of course not. However, it can rather dramatically increase the likelihood of success, because the new self-talk style is a 1-step process. What you say creates the picture you want your brain to follow. Some individuals were attempting to walk on a 2x4 raised a few inches off the ground. A group of friends started chanting “Don’t fall, don’t fall,” and about 85% of the time the individual stepped off the 2x4 from picturing ‘falling.’ The reverse was also true. Words such as, “Put your arms out. Balance. Stay on the 2x4,” resulted in success about 85% of the time.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Effective Self-Talk Styles

Used correctly, affirmations can be very effective. Telling yourself: “Don’t forget to go by the cleaners,” is less effective than “_____, remember to stop at the cleaners on your way home.” Instructing your brain: “Don’t be scared to make that presentation,” is less helpful than saying “_____, you are presenting in a way that the audience finds interesting.” Moaning to yourself: “I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I can’t be successful” is a recipe for disaster compared to saying: “_____, you are doing this project. You are successful. You are having fun.” Rehearsing, “I’m not pretty enough—or smart enough, or handsome enough, or loveable enough,” programs your brain for negativity. However, telling your brain you can jump off the Eiffel Tower in Paris and fly just by waving your arms and thinking you can is not genuine, realistic, or doable. If something is possible to do, however, affirmations can program your brain to put its best foot forward and its shoulder to the proverbial wheel—and help you accomplish it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Benefits of New Self-Talk Style

The researchers and independent evaluators found that the participants who used their ‘first name’ and ‘you’ had less anxiety, were more confident (_____, you can do this), performed better, perceived less shame for making mistakes, and experienced less social anxiety not only before the event but also afterward in post-event processing, when people tend to chew over their performance and find themselves lacking. This self-talk style depersonalizes things slightly, more objectively directs your brain to accomplish what you want to do, and empowers you to view as a challenge what others see as a threat. According to Dr. Kross, the distance gained by using your ‘given name’ and the pronoun ‘you’ confers a type of wisdom and resolves what he dubs King Solomon’s paradox: people often reason more wisely about the social problems of others than they do about their own. First-name self-talk shifts the focus away from the self; it allows people to transcend their inherent egocentrism and fear—and that helps to make them as smart in thinking about themselves as they typically are about others. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Moser and Kross Studies, Cont’d

Researchers found that when study participants addressed themselves using their ‘given name’ and the pronoun “you,” something very interesting happened in the brain. First, there was a dramatic reduction in anxiety levels; electrodes documented a vast reduction in energy consumed by the frontal lobes; the activity of the amygdala (part of the mammalian-limbic system) quieted down as well, its activity reduced by just about half. Participants were also more successful in the given task. Conclusion: toggling the way you address yourself—first person vs your ‘first name’ and ‘you’—flips a switch in the neocortex and in the amygdala (seat of fear), which gives you psychological distance, enables self-control, allows you to think clearly, and to perform competently. It minimizes rumination after you complete a task (a handmaiden of anxiety and depression), releases you from negative thoughts, gives you and your brain perspective, helps you focus more deeply, and make plans for the future.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Moser and Kross Studies

Studies by Jason Moser PhD and by Ethan Kross PhD have shown that speaking to oneself using the words “I” and “me” tends to trigger downshifting into the mammalian or 2nd brain layer and subjectively hooked into one’s level of self-esteem. Electrical activity in the lobes of the frontal cortex and in the limbic system increased when study participants used ‘I’ and ‘’me’ in their self-talk, and they had to work harder to talk themselves into a positive view—even then, they failed to calm themselves down. The harder their frontal lobes worked, the more anxious their mammalian layer (limbic system) became. The given task pitched them into a vicious circle of rumination, anxiety, and more rumination. So was there a more effective self-talk style? More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Brain Pictures

The brain thinks in pictures. It turns whatever it reads, thinks, hears, and so on, into mental pictures. You may have read a book, creating internal mental pictures about what the characters and environment looked like. Later on, seeing a movie based on the book, you may think, “That’s not like what I pictured!” The Reptilian 1st brain layer and the Mammalian 2nd brain layer are both subconscious portions of the brain. They are thought unable to use language per se but they can follow the pictures created in the 3rd brain layer or neocortex. Tell a four-year-old child: “Don’t touch the stove,” and the first brain picture is that of touching the stove. It’s very difficult for a young child to convert that picture (and often not much easier for an adult’s brain) so the child may touch the stove and get burned. Often the child is then punished for disobeying, when there would be a greater chance for success by saying, “Keep your hand away from the stove.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Wegner Studies

Studies by Daniel M. Wegner PhD have shown the importance of positive self-talk. In his book White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and the Psychology of Mental Control, he discusses The White Bear Phenomenon. When you say “Don’t think about the white bear,” a representation of a white bear goes into your working memory and you tend to think about a white bear even more. That statement tells you want not to do but does not tell you what to do. That can be confusing for your own brain as well as that of others and requires the brain to engage in a two-step process: it must somehow change the first picture (a white bear) into something else because the brain thinks in pictures. But into WHAT should the picture be changed? That is the problem for the brain.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Affirming Self-Talk

Affirmations for yourself are a form of personal self-talk and every human being uses it. Appropriate self-talk is one of the most effective, least-utilized tools available to master the mind, foster success, and overcome fear, and achieve your goals.

Your inner self-talk voice takes shape in early childhood and persists lifelong. As with most other brain functions, self-talk may be misused, becoming a source of painful rumination or even psychosis, or it can enhance your success. Thoughts create your mindset and mindset creates your self-talk, A series of groundbreaking studies have found that how people conduct their inner self-talk has an enormous effect on their success in life. More tomorrow.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Awareness and Affirmations

Increase your awareness. Learn to listen in on what you say, silently and aloud. When you recognize a negative style (e.g., don’t, can’t, won’t, hopeless), stop, think, and restate in a positive can-do manner. Bottom line, stop talking about what you do not wish to have happen. Tia Walker said affirmations are our mental vitamins, providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily. And researcher Candace B. Pert PhD, pointed out that each receptor molecule remembers how many times it has been stimulated and whether it was over or under stimulated. This memory affects the flow of information through the brain and the body. That’s why abuse is lethal and affirmation so powerful. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Brain Susceptibility

Your brain is susceptible to what others say about you and may even record that (along with what you say to and about yourself) in the same place in the brain—so it is important to protect your brain (insofar as it is possible to do so) from negative input. Children are less able to do that. Consequently it is critical to evaluate what you were told about yourself and what you heard others say about yourself—or you may be risk for believing them. What they said was only their brain’s opinion but if you believed them if could derail your success or even influence you not to do something that your brain could be very good at doing. 

Affirmation Formula

There are some general guidelines that could be considered a basic formula for affirmations. First, use short words and phrases so they are easy to recall. Second, state the words and phrases in a positive form. You are creating a 1-step picture of what you want to have happen. (As a point of interest, the famous “Lord’s Prayer” is written in positives: it tells you what to do; not what not to do.) Third, always use present tense to motivate the brain to get on board now as in “this is a done deal.” When you speak in future tense the brain may think “when that future time comes if you still want to do this I’ll help you.” The words ‘I’m going to’ is future tense and may never arrive. And last but not least, be genuine and truthful to yourself and others, avoiding insincerity, flattery, manipulation, or a word picture that can never happen. For example, telling a person who is five feet tall: “You are six feet tall” is unhelpful unless you also help them learn to use stilts. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Affirmation—An Art and a Science

As with anything else, the effective use of affirmations is both an art and a science that is honed through practice. Yes, it’s a learning curve if you were not showered with helpful self-worth-building comments growing up so failed to learn that skill. As with most everything else worth honing, it requires information that your brain can turn into knowledge and apply on a daily basis. Since each brain is unique, so will be the affirmations it directs toward the self and toward others. An affirmation simply involves a style of speaking. The Free Dictionary defines it as a solemn declaration; an assertion; a positive statement or judgment about the truth of something; a statement intended to provide encouragement, emotional support, or motivation. Jean Marie Stine referred to affirmations as the mind’s programming language. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Brain and Affirmations

Knowing what to say to build self-esteem and avoid encouraging the development of narcissism in yourself, in children, and in other adults can be a challenge. Since human beings tend to speak to others the way they talk to themselves, to paraphrase: The language of affirmation begins at home—with you. Since you can only role-model what you know, if your parents and care-providers were unable to use affirmations because they had never developed that skill or chose not to, your brain will need to develop this skill on your own—and it can be learned, just as EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) can be learned and raised. As you learn to affirm yourself in a healthy manner using effective self-talk styles and programming your brain for success, it becomes easier to use a ‘similar language’ when speaking with others. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

NPD and Your Energy

Dealing with NPD can be exhausting and can negatively impact your energy. What type of interactions exhaust your brain? People to talk nonstop about their problems but respond with ‘that won’t work’ every time you make a helpful suggestion? How is your energy level after spending a relationship encounter with them? Do you feel drained or energized? It’s one thing to voluntarily do a random act of kindness, it’s another to spend your time dancing to someone else’s needy tune. No relationship is 100% functional and affirming all the time. Sometimes you give more, sometimes they do, especially when it ‘rains’ on your parade. There needs to be a balance, however, over time. If you are your friend’s primary resource or they get your attention through bad behavior or unwise choices, rethink the relationship. Relationships that are not healthy and reciprocal are like a mild headache. You grow accustomed to the pain and accept it as ‘normal’ over time, failing to recognize the increasing painful headache, sometimes until it produces a 'brain tumor,' metaphorically. Remember: nutritious food gives you energy; so does a nutritious relationship.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dealing with NPD Behaviors

What can you do when confronted by a person exhibiting symptoms characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder? First, recognize that it involves their self-absorption, inability to manage anger, low self-esteem, low levels of Emotional Intelligence, failure to be empathetic, tendency to blame others, learned styles of coping (or not coping) with the ups and downs of life, low motivation for improvement, and so on. Refuse to accept blame or responsibility when it isn’t yours. When I encounter narcissistic behaviors I ask myself: will this matter in 12 months? If the answer is no, I simply get through that one encounter as soon as possible and find something for which to be grateful. If the answer is yes, then I address the issue functionally. Meaning, I set and implement appropriate boundaries to protect myself. When the narcissist is an adult family member, you can still choose to limit your exposure, set and implement appropriate protective boundaries, and avoid taking their narcissistic behaviors personally. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Recognizing NPD

You can only know what you know, therefore, recognizing patterns of behavior quickly can help you protect yourself and/or get help if you recognize the symptoms in yourself. Self-esteem is compromised in NPD, so in order to feel adequate these brains need to find others as incompetent and put them down (e.g., complain, criticize, gossip, show contempt). There is a lack compassion for others because they don’t recognize their own mistakes. In fact, to be okay they often try to believe they do not make mistakes. Typically they do everything in their power to avoid being held accountable. It is so much easier to blame, trying to displace some of their discomfort onto someone else. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Parenting Style, 3

The Brummelman study reportedly identified that greater child-rated parental warmth, predicted higher self-esteem six months later, but not greater narcissism. This was measured by comments such as “I know my parents love me. My mother (or father) tells me she (or he) loves me.” By comparison, parental overvaluation predicted greater narcissism six months later, but not higher self-esteem. This was measured by comments indicating the child felt more special than others and comments by the parent(s) that indicated their child was more special than other children. On the other hand, I’ve heard parents say, “You are very special to me,” and “I am so glad you are my child,” or “I am happy to spend time with you.” This falls in the healthier emotional warmth category in my opinion. At a kids picnic not long ago, I heard a child say to an adult, “I’m special. I hit that ball really good.” The adult response was, “Yes, you did hit the ball well. Remember, every child is special is his or her own way, you included.” That grouped the child with others rather than singling the child out above the others. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Parenting Style, 2

A child who may be developing narcissistic characteristics not only may want to be in the spotlight all the time but may care about being admired and thought special more than developing genuine friendships. As they brag and demand attention and admiration, they may seem oblivious to how that may make other children around them feel. And, as with adults, these children often have very fragile self-esteem. At quite a young age they may become aggressive, angry, and lash out at parents or others if anything happens that makes them feel humiliated, criticized, teased, not special, or rejected in any way. Parents need to develop rhetoric that works for them, the idea being to let children know that the parents love and cherish them and enjoy seeing them do well, without overtly comparing the children to others by telling them continually how special they are. I heard one father tell his son not long ago, “I enjoyed watching you play the game. You are gaining skills and improving. I’m glad you are my son.”

Friday, August 11, 2017

Parenting Style

It is important to understand that most people do the best they can at the time with what they know. If a parent grew up being told he or she was special, that parent may replicate that style with their own child(ren)—or go 180 degrees opposite. And, as I so often point out, 180 degrees from dysfunctional is simply a different type of dysfunction. It’s cute when a child of three or four tells his parents: “Watch me do this!” As one teacher explained, this likely represents an age-appropriate desire for the child to obtain parental approval for having learned a new skill. By the time a child is around age seven (give or take a year or two), the child is beginning to compare his/her competence and skill levels with that of other children. Acknowledge and rewarding a child’s skill level is one thing; teaching the child he is “more special” than anyone else is quite another thing. Continual pleas to "Watch me, watch me," is no longer cute in a seven-year old who always wants to hold center stage and be in the spotlight. Some counselors point out that a child is not ‘bad’ or ‘good,’ although behaviors can be positive or negative. A child needs to feel loved and accepted by his/her parents, period; and assisted to develop behaviors that give them positive outcomes, but that do not lead them to believe they are ‘more special’ than anyone else.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

NPD Study Comments, Cont’d

Eddie Brummelman thinks the study conclusions suggest a practical way of helping parents. Parents can be coached on how to express affection and appreciation toward children without telling them that they are superior to others or entitled to special privileges.

An earlier study by the same authors reported something I found especially interesting. The researchers asked the parents whether their children knew about “Queen Alberta” and “The Tale of Benson Bunny.” Both of these were concocted by the researchers. Some of the parents in the study claimed their children knew all about “Queen Alberta” and “The Tale of Benson Bunny.” Brummelman, study pointed out that parents who tended to overvalue their child(ren) also tended to claim that their child had knowledge of many different topics, including even these nonexistent ones that had been made up by the researchers. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NPD Study Comments

The contributors to narcissism are complex. Overvaluing children appears to be one of the causes but there are also genetic and other environmental factors at play that also need to be studied. Some children appear to be are more vulnerable to overvaluing parenting styles. Professor Brad Bushman, one of the study’s authors, indicated that the study had changed his parenting style. Before he began this research in the 1990s, he used to think his children should be treated like they were extra-special. He is careful to avoid doing that now because children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others, which may not be good for them or for society. Rather than overvaluing the child, concentrating on being emotionally warm towards children was linked with better levels of self-esteem, not narcissism. It is important to express emotional warmth to your children because that may promote self-esteem, but overvaluing them may promote higher narcissism.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

NPD Study Good News

The good news about the study is that their findings uncovered early socialization experiences that cultivate narcissism and, therefore, this suggests interventions at an early age that may prevent or curtail narcissistic development. This could be very helpful in assisting parents to provide balanced, effective parenting strategies—because in adulthood, dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorders can be challenging. If NPD is not dealt with appropriately and treated, complications may include: depression, drug or alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts or behavior. The brain’s subconscious Reptilian and Mammalian layers seem to be involved with NPD. Individuals with NPD seem surface friendly but no one really knows themalthough they primarily talk about self and want the emphasis on themselves. They are often charismatic but very secretive. They aim to be successful at whatever the cost (e.g., may lie, exhibit addictive behaviors, throw you “under the bus”).

Monday, August 7, 2017

NPD Study, 3

In pointing out the significance of the study, the researchers commented that narcissistic individuals tend to feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment. When they feel humiliated, they often lash out aggressively or even violently. Knowledge about the origins of narcissism is important for designing interventions to curtail narcissistic development. They believe this study demonstrated that narcissism in children is cultivated by parental overvaluation as the parents believe their child to be more special and more entitled than others. In contrast, high levels of self-esteem in children is cultivated by parental warmth, as parents express their affection and appreciation toward their child. These findings show that narcissism is partly rooted in early socialization experiences, and suggest that parent-training interventions can help curtail narcissistic development and reduce its costs for society. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

NPD Study, 2

Results of the NPD study “Origins of Narcissism in Children” support social learning theory and contradict psychoanalytic theory:

  • Narcissism was predicted by parental overvaluation
  • Narcissism was not predicted by lack of parental warmth.
The children seemed to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing their parents’ inflated views of them (e.g., “I am superior to others” and “I am entitled to privileges”).

Attesting to the specificity of this finding:

·         Self-esteem was predicted by parental warmth
·         Self-esteem was not predicted by parental overvaluation.

These findings identified early socialization experiences that cultivate narcissism. More tomorrow.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

NPD Study

The report of a study entitled “Origins of Narcissism in Children,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2015). It was conducted though the Research Institute of Child Development and Education, Department of Educational Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1001 NG, The Netherlands. According to researchers led by Eddie Brummelman, narcissism levels have been increasing among Western youth. This personality disorder contributes to societal problems such as aggression and violence. The origins of narcissism have not been well understood. To their knowledge, this was the first prospective longitudinal study to provide evidence on the origins of narcissism in children. Researchers compared two perspectives:

  • Social learning theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by parental overvaluation)
  • Psychoanalytic theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by lack of parental warmth).
 Their goal was to discover whether parenting styles could be linked with the development of narcissism in biologically vulnerable children. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NPD Criteria, Cont’d

  • Expecting to receive special favors 
  • Expecting unquestioning compliance with expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get personal desired met
  • Showing an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
  • Coming across as exceedingly confident or over-confident
Note, this persona of confidence or projection of over-confidence likely does not reflect genuine competency confidence. Rather is appears to reflect thinking so highly of oneself that the person puts him or herself on such a high level that the person values the self much more than he or she values others. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

NPD Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Its criteria are used to diagnose mental conditions as well as used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment. Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder include (somewhat paraphrased):
  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • An expectation to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant that
  • A tendency to exaggerate achievements and talents
  • A preoccupation with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Needing constant admiration
  • A sense of entitlement

The list continues tomorrow.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Teenage Brain and NPD

As mentioned earlier, the still-in-process teenage brain is rather narcissistic in its approach to life and living. The process of maturing the teenage brain is designed to move it away from narcissistic behavior to more balanced behaviors. This involves a learning process and the teenage brain either learns it or not. If the teenagers fail to mature and move to more balanced behaviors, they tend to become narcissistic adults. While narcissists are able to feel most emotions as strongly as do others, they seem to lack the essential ability to perceive or understand the feelings of others. As Martha Stout PhD has put it, narcissism is a failure not of conscience but of empathy. Emotionally speaking, narcissists don’t seem to see past their own nose, sometimes flying into narcissistic rages and then lacking the skills to get back on the good side of people they love. That’s exactly what had happened in the interactions between parents and their ‘adult’ son. He had flown into a narcissistic rage when things has not turned out exactly as he expected or wanted on his visit, which had fractured their relationship, yet again. More tomorrow.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Aphorisms, 11

  • If it ain't broke, leave it alone and stop trying to fix it
  • If you do what you've always done you'll get what you've always got
  • If you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas
  • If you snooze while you’re awake, you lose
  • Ignorance is bliss—until someone smarter comes along
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery unless you are imitating stupidity
  • Keep your head above water unless you really know how to swim
  • Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it
  • Keep your nose to the grindstone—if you want to ruin your nose
  • Keep your powder dry and your arrow sharp—which takes brains

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Age-Related NPD

The brain matures more slowly than the body that houses it. Consequently, immature brains are definitely not ‘done’ yet and are innately rather narcissistic, “It’s all about me.” The process of maturing is designed to move these brain to more balanced behaviors. It is believed less of a genetic process and more of a learning process that is either learned or not. If the brain does not learn and mature and move to more balanced behaviors, the brain may become narcissistic. The bad news in terms of relationships is that an antisocial narcissistic adult (whose brain did not learn and move toward more balanced behaviors) may eventually exhibit sociopathic behaviors. What else might you observe? These individuals may have serial sexual affairs saying, “If you’d paid me more attention I wouldn’t have had to go looking for it.” (Blaming) They want to avoid accountability saying, “I’ve made mistakes but I don’t want to talk about any of them, I just want to start from here.” A big question is whether narcissism is treatable. I have heard psychiatrist say, “Yes, some narcissism is treatable,” especially if the individual recognizes their behaviors and wants to become more balanced. If they are in the habit of exhibiting angry narcissistic rages, however, and are unwilling to seek help to view themselves and their behaviors more objectively and course correct, there may be no recovery. More next week.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

NPD Prevalence

Prevalence is the estimated population of people who are managing Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) at any given time in a given general population group. Jean M. Twenge PhD and W. Keith Campbell PhD, authors of the 2009 book The Narcissism Epidemic, estimated the prevalence of NPD in the United States at 6.2% in the general population: 7.7% for males and 4.8% for females. Reportedly, NPD is more prevalent among separated, divorced, widowed, and never married adults. Hispanic females and African Americans may be at higher risk. It comes as no surprise NPD can cause problems in many areas of life including home, school, work, and in all types of relationships and collaborative efforts. This personality disorder is also characterized by a belief that they deserve admiration and special favors in all environments. When they do not receive this at the level expected, they can become disappointed and unhappy. Naturally, they tend to find relationships rather unfulfilling and cannot seem to understand why others to not seek them out and want to be around them. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Brain & NPD, 2

Based on, I’m guessing, some of the ‘news items’ lately, I’ve been asked more questions about narcissism recently, including any role parenting might play in its development. A Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of several types of personality disorders, which are mental conditions characterized by traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways (a Mayo Clinic puts it). No surprise, this limits their ability to function effectively and successfully in relationships both personally and professionally. These individuals tend to have an inflated sense of their own importance, which includes a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. Their exhibited persona is that of ultra-confident behavior, but at its core it contains an extremely fragile sense of self-worth or self-esteem, which makes them vulnerable to the slightest perceived criticismreal or imagined—no matter how mild or deserving. More tomorrow.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Brain & Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissism and the Brain

Several times I’ve been asked to speak on the topic of “Difficult Brains—Toxic Behaviors.” The goal, of course, is to help people recognize undesirable behaviors quickly. If it involves their own behaviors, they can choose to course correct. If it involve the behaviors of others, they can self-select strategies to protect themselves from at least some of the negative consequences. A parent contacted me and described his emotional pain related to a visit from his adult son. On the surface at least, what the father described fell into the category of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and the reported behaviors were pretty ugly. The son stated, among other things, "I do not have a happy life and it is all your fault. After all, you had me and I did not ask to be born, period. Certainly I did not ask to be born into this family!" It can be tough when the narcissist you know is a member of your own family or, for that matter, yourself. In the latter case, you do have the choice to course correct. More tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dementia and Music

As with AIDS when it was discovered that dementia appeared to result when the HIV attacked glial cells in the brain (which then failed to care for the neurons that died from neglect), Alzheimer’s may be the outcome of an attack on the mitochondria. It is going to be interesting following this line of research. Recently, a friend of mine shared a youtube item about a 95 year old man who had developed dementia and had to be placed in a facility for individuals whose brains were damaged at that level. Although Alzheimer and other forms of dementia are believed to be a type of neurological brain disease, apparently they doesn’t necessarily wipe out all skills and abilities. This man was still able to play jazz! You may want to take a couple minutes and watch this. It brought tears to my heart . . .