Monday, 31 July 2017

Confidence is attractive.
It breeds opportunity and is powerful in the pursuit of expressing your self-worth. It inspires others to trust and believe in you, and exerting it right can be extremely self-fulfilling.
Having strong levels of confidence and self-esteem is crucial when having to decide the best action to take in any situation. Or to effectively deal with unexpected and undesirable turn of events, or to persuade and influence others. Or when communicating with others without personal ego distorting the interaction.
In the purest sense, your current self-confidence and self-esteem levels are determined by what you think (or know) you’re good at, the value you can provide, and then how effectively you convey that to others.
Confidence thus evolves and increases in areas where you think you’re best at, and you naturally avoid avenues in which you expect to fail.
But what do you think could happen if you knew how to improve self-confidence in all areas of your life, especially the weak areas?
What if you knew exactly how to gain self-esteem and build confidence with the right training and assistance?
Before being able to do that however, you first need to examine what the root causes are of your own low self-esteem and confidence concerns.
According to transformational hypnotherapy therapist, behavioural expert and best-selling author, Marisa Peer, there are several root causes found in people who experience low levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Root Causes Of Low Self-Esteem

Disapproving Family Or Peers

You fear rejection and all your actions stem from the human need to be accepted and acknowledged. Because of this, negativity and constant criticism from others can damage your feelings of self-worth.
Been taunted and bullied as a child with an overwhelming sense of being lost caused you to feel abandoned and hopeless, filling you with self-loathing and leaving you unprepared for the cruel world.
Physical, sexual or emotional abuse possibly are the most apparent causes of low self-esteem and self-confidence issues. Past traumas can make it difficult to associate with others, like or trust them which profoundly impacts self-esteem and strong feelings of loneliness.
Religious Belief Systems
When you constantly dwell between bad and evil, you end up feeling confused, disoriented, shameful and disappointed with yourself when you think you did something wrong.
Body Image
You are consumed by unrealistic media images, concepts and opinions of what the ideal body composition type is, what you should look like, what you should weigh or how you should behave — all resulting in you feeling unattractive and inadequate.
Existential Crisis
You feel usurped in a world beyond your control, which leads to feelings of ineffectiveness, powerlessness and worthlessness, where the meaning of your life becomes questionable — and your inability to realize your life’s purpose or self-worth poses a significant challenge to your existence.

Unrealistic Or Unmet Goals
You expect way too much of yourself, and the inevitable failure to meet unrealistic goals you previously set may lead to feelings of inferiority and unworthiness.
Previous Bad Decisions
You got locked into a certain decision-making pattern without the power to change — and continue making bad choices that reinforce your own negative self-view, or keep circling in adverse circumstances.
Negative Thought Patterns
Your mind believes what you tell it, and you constantly feed it with negative thoughts about yourself, and never challenge these thoughts and feelings for what they're worth. This creates an endless self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.
Academic And Educational Challenges
Inadequate education is a major cause of low self-esteem when you interact with others more knowledgeable than you. If you feel like you don't understand things as quickly as others, you often have doubt in your own capacities, and become more self-conscious about sharing your opinions.
“When you know much about a lot, you won’t feel inferior,” says Marisa Peer.
“But more accurately, self-esteem comes from accepting your insufficiencies and still choosing to like yourself. And then do everything in your power to increase your self-confidence, and to become greater at handling your life well...”

11 Self-Esteem Qualities And Characteristics
These qualities and characterisitcs show true self-esteem. Boost them for increased confidence, better performance, health and happiness:
Knowing that "I am enough"
“I am enough." Say it again... “I am enough."
Continuously praising yourself
People who are happy and successful rely on internal self-validation and self-appreciation. You know you can do it, and you know you’re good at it, you know you’re enough to make it happen. And you remind yourself of it often.
Having a greater self-worth-to-value ratio
The more self-confidence you have, the more you value yourself and your capabilities, which means you know your core values, and thereby feel more valuable. You also enjoy growing as a person and continually find fulfillment and meaning in your life.
Freedom from self-doubt
The more self-confident you are, the less mental torture you experience doubting yourself, and questioning whether you're really worthy, or capable of achieving things you want to achieve, because you know how to delve really deep and be creative to master anything.
Greater strength and capabilities
The more self-confident you are, the more powerful you feel to make the right decision and to face challenges, rather than feeling weakened, crippled and defeated when confronted.
Having peace of mind with no fear and anxiety
The more self-confident you are, the more you know what you can accept, handle, learn, gain and benefit from any situation, circumstance, challenge, problem or outcome, while pushing yourself in a more positive and confident direction.
Having no societal apprehension
The more secure you feel in your self-worth, the less concerned you are with what others think of you. You see the world and other people in realistic terms, accepting it, and them the way they are.
Have more energy and motivation to act
The more confident you are that you can achieve anything, the clearer you see the possible outcomes with better concentration abilities, thereby feeling more motivated and energized to act.
Experiencing beneficial and more enjoyable interactions with others
The happier and more confident you are, the more relaxed, comfortable and at ease you feel — naturally also putting others at ease to better trust, respect, value, welcome and cooperate with you.
Enhanced sleep and health
Be confident means less anxiety and fear with less worries keeping you awake, or causing adverse biochemical reactions and toxins in your body.
Greater career and work success
Self-confident people who embody all of the above
qualities are naturally more successful in their relationships, in their health and fitness and overall well-being. Most importantly, they naturally perform better in any task with higher success rates.
Wonderful things happen when you increase your self-confidence and self-esteem:
You are freed from the harsh judgment and criticisms of others;
You can express your thoughts, feelings, values and opinions because your self-worth no longer comes from the acceptance of others but from a feeling of real contribution;
You accept change effortlessly and feel more capable to weather any storm;
You are likely to gain the trust of a potential client, partner or business deal, projecting strong self-confidence and self-esteem;
You experience more happiness and enjoyment in all areas of your life.
2 Steps to Building Lasting Confidence
In Under 5 Days
Building confidence needn't take years, or even months. There are proven methods to cultivating lasting confidence in as little as 5 days. Here's how:
Step #1: Accept that you are responsible for building your own self-confidence.
You can blame your parents for how they raised you. You can blame your teachers for how they treated you… you can blame failed relationships with previous partners hurting you, or failed business ventures with ignorant idiots attacking your true value…
But the only person really responsible for building your self-confidence in future is yourself.

Step #2: Responsibility is the first step, but not always enough. You need a map, an objective system, a trustworthy confidant to guide you through each major failure-point to guaranteed success.

originally posted on

Three friends walk into a bar.

One instantly turns to a group of strangers and launches into boisterous conversation. Another sits back, momentarily, before joining in (while longing for something more intimate).

The third, in an attempt to mask a spiralling mind, has their head down and appears disengaged.

It's a vicious cycle.
"Someone with social anxiety disorder will go into that social situation already being primed by thinking 'no one's going to talk to me,' or 'they're going to think I'm boring.' So when they get into that situation, they are already in an anxious state," told by Professor in Clinical Psychology Kim Felmingham told

"They are more aware of their anxiety and therefore they are less engaged with the actual conversation. Inadvertently, they can appear disengaged to others who then may actually remove themselves from that interaction.

"It's a vicious cycle."

The distinction between introversion, shyness and social anxiety is one that frequently comes into question in clinical psychology -- for they can easily be misconstrued.

"People will vary on the spectrum. There is certainly a dimensional nature to how much shyness or introversion a person may have and at what point that may become a clinical disorder," Felmingham said.

And there's no simple answer.

Social anxiety disorder (or SAD) is characterised by a fear of criticism or rejection by others. It is diagnosed when this fear becomes chronic and debilitating.

'People with SAD develop very negative cognitions about themselves in social situations," Felmingham said. "That is the driving factor that leads them to fearing negative evaluations from others."

And it goes beyond feeling shy or introverted.

This can go on chronically for many years where people are really socially isolated and may turn down any interaction that they come across. It can cause heightened distress and functional impairment.

"The fundamental line of difference is that shyness and introversion are normal personality styles or traits," Felmingham said.

"A person who is shy may feel uncomfortable if they are in the limelight, or an introvert may not particularly like loud conversation. But that doesn't necessarily cause them significant stress and can often be viewed positively."

SAD can be characterised by severe levels of anxiety that can lead to avoidance of social situations.

"This can go on chronically for many years where people are really socially isolated and may turn down any interaction that they come across. It can cause heightened distress and functional impairment."

Blurred lines

You may be a non-anxious introvert -- whereby your perception of time spent in solitude is fulfilling and stimulating -- or you may be an anxious introvert.

Guido Mieth
This may be more your vibe.
"Not everyone who is an introvert has social anxiety. Shyness and introversion are really quite common. They are not always equatable," Felmingham said.

And when it comes to monitoring shyness, the line becomes blurred. "SAD most commonly emerges in late teens to early 20's and many people who do present in clinics report that they have always been shy," Flemingham said.

How much stress is this causing the person? If it is really intense anxiety with a lot of avoidance, then it requires treatment.
"If you are reaching the high end of shyness that might be associated with some anxiety and more negative emotions, that can be a risk factor that contributes to the development of SAD."

According to Flemingham, it comes back to functional impairment.

"How much stress is this causing the person? If it is really intense anxiety with a lot of avoidance, then it requires treatment."

How can it be treated?

Due to the role of cognitive processes that maintain social anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a proven treatment.

"We train people to identify their negative thoughts about themselves and to challenge them, as well as their pre and post- event processing of social situations," Flemingham said.

"We perform behavioural experiments, whereby in a gradual way, we get people to overcome their avoidance and go into social situations to really test out their beliefs."

"These treatments may take longer if patterns are entrenched, but they are effective."

originally posted on

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Depression is a very serious mental illness that often goes unnoticed for years. People with concealed depression are battling demons within themselves all on their own. They are not sharing their struggles and do not want to burden those around them.

You see, for most people wounds are not something we are open about. We tend to bottle things up and attempt to remedy them on our own. If you are reading this then you must know someone who you feel you need to better understand or you relate to this yourself. The following 15 habits are some of the most common I have noticed in people dealing with concealed depression.

1. The are often quite talented and very expressive.

Alot of famous people have suffered from mental illnesses, and this suffering gives them deeper emotions. If you really think about it, this is in some form a source to their greatness. While we cannot always see it, their struggles are often reflected in their works. These people are able to bring something beautiful out of the darkness that consumes them.

2. They tend to search for purpose.

We all need a purpose in this life. We want to be sure that we are in some form doing meaningful things. People suffering from hidden depression are not exempt from this. They too want to know the reason for their existence. They are much more susceptible to feeling things like inadequacy and anxiety which leaves them searching for something they can never seem to achieve in their own minds.

3. Sometimes they make muted cries for help.

Sometimes we all need help. When we are not expecting someone to feel weak or to be down in the dumps, we don’t see their cries for help. However, if you notice their cries and can help them in any way, you are creating a very close and trust filled bond with them.

4. They interpret substances differently.

Someone who is dealing with depression usually knows what it is they can take to ease their pain in a sense. They know that caffeine and sugar will raise their mood and that some medicines can help them. They actually have to put a lot of effort into feeling better, unlike most people. It is not as simple as taking a Tylenol when you have a headache.

5. They often have a very involved perception of life and death.

People suffering from depression often face their own mortality in moments of despair and seek answers to life’s deepest questions. They tend to shift from one terrible mindset into another. Sure, not all depressed people deal with suicidal thoughts, but some do.

6. They have strange eating habits.

People with depression may not be able to eat much or at all when they are at their worst. That being said some of them may eat more when at their worst. It varies from person to person.

7. They have abnormal sleeping habits.

People with depression will often sleep for what seems like or may literally be days. Sleep at times can be impossible while other times could be the only thing left that the person can do. When a person is depressed they are dealing with a state of helplessness that will rock their world.

8. They have abandonment issues usually.

If you have dealt with abandonment then you know how terrible it can be. When someone walks out of your life it can be a devastating, but this impacts those with depression much more than other people. It causes them to be more and more secretive about their feelings and creates a fear within them of being abandoned by their loved ones.

9. They are professionals at coming up with ‘cover-up’ stories.

They are able to come up with believable elaborate excuses for the things they are going through. Like if they skip an appointment or don’t return your calls for days. They can easily change the subject when things like this come up and turn the attention away from their pain.

10. They might have habitual remedies.

There are several different lifestyle changes a person can make as an attempt to ease their minds. For instance, these people may do things like exercise, listen to music, go walking, and so forth.

11. They are aways making efforts to seem happy.

People suffering from depression learn to fake moods. They will often come off as happy and normal on the outside. When they let their inner struggles appear on the outside they feel as if they are bringing others down.

12. They seek love and acceptance.

People with hidden depression are not hiding their depression because they want to be dishonest, they are just working to protect their hearts. These people want to be loved and accepted just like everyone else.

13. They have trouble shutting off their brains.

These people process everything going on in their lives at a fast speed. They over analyze the good and the bad making everything impact them much deeper. Their brains are like sponges absorbing everything that comes their way.

14. They hurt when other people hurt.

When other people are suffering it brings them down to their worst points. This sort of thing often triggers their emotional pain and can be crippling.

15. They always think of the worst-case scenarios.

While this is very stressful it can be beneficial from time to time. A high intelligence seems to be linked with depression, and they are able to respond to anything that comes their way. This makes them good problem solvers for the most part.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from concealed depression either get help or offer a helping hand. Fighting this alone is not easy or productive. The world can be a wonderful place if you get the help you need nothing can stand in your way. You are not a burden to others and the people who love and care about you want to help you, let them.

originally posted on

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Anxiety can be very harmful and it’s not something to be overlooked. The worst problem is that a lot of people can’t understand the effects it can have on a person and find anxious people as being lazy, irresponsible and passive.

If you are not an anxious person, knowing this can help you understand anxiety a bit better. If you are, we are sure you are going to agree with these things.

1.Decline invites although you may want to go

There are certain days that you may have planned all along and when they come, anxiety takes up the whole space. It can become so debilitating that you feel as if you lack the energy to go out.

You are aware of what is happening to you and you don’t want to become a burden where you are supposed to go – so you just cancel everything.

2. Obsess over trivial things other people may not even notice

A simple word or an unintended glance from someone is enough for your head to start processing and rewinding the situation even for days! The truth is you obsess over everything that has happened recently or a week ago, or any time ago, really.

You may obsess over a conversation you had, or the fact that someone hasn’t texted you yet (after a whole 12 hour period) or really just over the fact that some stranger looked at you as if they knew you.

Whatever the case may be, many would get confused by the notion that you even notice such things.

3. Go to bed late, wake up early in the morning

One of the biggest issues for you is certainly sleeping. Of all the processing in your head after the day, you find it hard to go to bed on time.

When early morning comes, your anxiety clock starts ticking again and ringing several alarms to get things going – even though you are tired. When your anxiety has switched on (by waking up), you can’t do anything to switch it off, so you don’t go back to bed.

4. In every situation, the worst scenario is your biggest thought

Instead of enjoying the moment as it is, you can’t help picturing and convincing yourself that the worst scenario is inevitable. If it’s a first date, you are convinced that something will go terribly wrong.

If you get sick, you always manage to connect the symptoms to the worst diseases you can imagine. It’s as if your mind tricks you into believing that nothing can go right.

5. You rewind conversations in your head – over and over again

No matter how well a conversation went with somebody, you always replay that conversation in your head fearing that you may have said something wrong. That’s why you try to avoid confrontation at all cost.

This constant rewinding seems to be able to haunt you until it starts chipping a hole from the inside. You always have to remind yourself that it’s your anxiety talking and that there is most certainly nothing wrong with what you have said in the first place.

6. When someone shows concern about you, you become even more worried about the same thing

If someone notices that you are not OK and shows concern, your anxiety grows even more. The thing is, when you hear someone asking if you are alright, it makes you fear even more for yourself and your state.

You think – if it has become noticeable, then there has to be more to it than I thought. This makes you feel worse than you did.

7. You believe that you are to blame if someone doesn’t reply right away

When communicating with people, be it your significant other, a friend or a relative, if they don’t respond immediately, you start thinking that you may have said or done something wrong.

However, you should stop and consider that they may be in the middle of something that takes up their attention, or that they are just bad at communicating.

8. You are experiencing a breakdown when the future comes as a topic

While most people look forward to the future and make plans for the future, your view on the future is making you feel intimidated and frustrated.

Experiencing the present so hard makes you think how hard and daunting the future may be. This makes you think how hard and daunting the future may be. This makes you retreat and hide from the thought of it.

9. You always compare your success to others who are your age

Although you may not want to compare yourself to others, your anxiety makes you scour through Facebook and stay up to date with all the successful things your peers have done.

Your worries are not that they have managed to succeed, but if you are ever going to succeed in your life like they have.

10. You obsess too much over every mistake you make by beating yourself up over it

The worst scenario is making a mistake at work. The thoughts that will consume you afterwards are tremendously difficult to handle.

Although you strive to perfect whatever you are doing, mistakes can occur, which is natural. Unfortunately, your anxiety doesn’t know that. In such cases, it becomes your worst enemy.

11. Sometimes, you feel too mentally and physically exhausted to get out of bed

Anxiety burns up most of your energy, both mentally and physically. That’s why it can happen that you cannot function properly and you just want to remain in bed and leave yourself drown in the sheets.This paralysis comes as a result of the overwhelming experiences due to your anxiety.


Originally posted on

Friday, 28 July 2017

People with ADHD feel emotions more intensely than others do. When they feel happiness and excitement, it makes them more interesting and engaging. But strong emotion has its downside as well. People with ADHD are impulsive. They get carried away by what they are feeling, and act on it without considering how it will affect other people or themselves. If you see something interesting at the store, you may get excited and buy that item and forget the rest of your shopping list.

This is the challenge of emotional self-control — having the appropriate emotion and feeling it at the right intensity. When it comes to getting things done, people with ADHD struggle with both sides of the equation.

They get excited about distractions and get bored with the tasks they should be doing. They can’t hunker down. They can’t get things done. They may wonder, “Why am I so emotional all the time?”

Lack of emotional control creates common and predictable struggles in daily life:

Sharing too much — there are times when it’s better not to reveal too much, such as at a work meeting or when trying to manage a frustrating child.

Behaving spontaneously — without stopping and thinking before acting.

Having “motivational deficit disorder” — people with ADHD have a harder time motivating themselves to start and finish tasks that aren’t interesting. Giving in to emotions brings this disorder on.

Losing the big picture — leading to decisions that they may later regret.

Losing the other person’s perspective — leading to self-centeredness or stepping on a friend’s feelings.

Saying something you later regret.
Showing anger or frustration — undermining relationships with friends, family, or your boss.

Quitting a job on an impulse — research has found that adults with ADHD are much more likely to quit a job than those without the condition.

Tap the Brakes on Runaway Emotion
Good solutions begin with a clear understanding of the problem. Most of the strategies for emotional self-control discussed here are based on three basic ideas: manage your stress, have strategies to control your emotions in situations that set them off, own up to your reactions.

1. Manage your stress. Everyone feels stressed out and overwhelmed sometimes. To the extent that you can, try to limit how many demands you have pressing on you at any one time.

2. Avoid over-committing yourself. Everything seems interesting until we find that we have too much going on. You can minimize crunch-time stress by taking less on and by graciously bowing out of some commitments when necessary — and with enough warning.

3. Get enough sleep. We are more positive and less reactive when we’ve gotten enough shut-eye.

4. Exercise regularly. Physical activity is a great stress reliever. It doesn’t matter how you exercise, as long as you do it regularly. Even doing a set of push-ups or going for a quick walk around the block can clear your head and put things in perspective.

5. Make time for yourself. It’s important to set some time aside for you to do something for your own pleasure. If you don’t recharge the batteries, you will burn out.

6. Treat co-occurring anxiety and depression. Adults with ADHD are more likely to be anxious and depressed. Untreated, these conditions may make your emotional control worse, so it is smart to address these professionally.

7. Avoid emotionally provoking situations. It’s harder to calm a strong reaction than it is to avoid it in the first place. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid every uncomfortable or difficult situation, but you should know that some situations aren’t worth the potential trouble.

8. Create a plan…ahead of time for how to respond to a situation that you know will evoke some strong feelings. Think about how you can respond to different things the other person might do, as well as what outcomes you hope to achieve. Review the plan right before you go into the situation and keep it in your mind during the situation. If possible, bring in some written notes.

9. Take a break. If your two choices are to blow up or walk away, it’s better to walk away. Even five seconds may be enough to help you calm down and gather yourself. If you are feeling angry at someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship, explain to him or her that a break will help you collect your thoughts and lead to a better outcome for everyone.

10. Train others to talk you down. If you know you will get emotional in certain situations — political discussions, sales at certain stores — train some of your family and friends to talk to you about the bigger picture, or another person’s perspective, so that you can catch yourself earlier in the process of getting caught up in a feeling.

11. Remind yourself that, no matter how strong the emotion you are feeling, it will fade. This could be a positive feeling, like being excited over a potential purchase, or a negative feeling, like a date that went badly. You will still have the feeling, but know that you will feel differently.

12. Remind yourself of the other person’s perspective. We react to people we are closest to. As much as we like to think that we’re justified in our feelings, there are times when we react to someone for reasons that have little to do with that person. Don’t take things personally that have little to do with you.

13. Separate feeling from acting. Our emotions often drive our behavior, but there doesn’t have to be a direct connection between the two. Although it’s easier said than done, it’s possible to notice the feeling that you’re having and what it makes you want to do without acting on it. Mindfulness training teaches people how to do this.

14. Educate others about your emotional patterns. Explain to family members, and close friends, and perhaps some coworkers, that your initial reaction tends to be stronger than that of other people, but that you settle down quickly and can have a productive discussion. This helps them not to overreact to your reaction. You may also coach them on how you would like them to respond to you when you have a strong emotional reaction.

15. After you cool off, explain what you really meant. If something came out wrong, or if you said something that you didn’t really mean, tell the person what your rationale was and what you meant. Don’t deny what the other person perceived, but let her know that you had better intentions than you conveyed.

Excerpted from the book Understand Your Brain, Get More Done, by ARI TUCKMAN, Psy.D., MBA. Copyright 2012.

This is an excerpt from DeSmog founder Jim Hoggan’s latest book, "I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse", published by New Society Publishers.

I first began reading the works of linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff about 15 years ago and I was struck by the Berkeley professor’s now famous ideas about what he calls frames. In public relations our stock in trade is messaging, because our role is to create understanding by combining maximum clarity with supreme brevity. We work in the world of sound bites and elevator pitches that are designed to be short and pithy, and we rarely have the time or budget to delve into frames or deeply moving narratives.

When I started writing I’m Right and You’re an Idiot I wanted to better understand the difference between messages and frames, so I would know how frames work and be able to explain how to manage them. I wanted to better understand how they relate to the mechanics of public debate, and especially how frames impact facts and scientific evidence in public discourse, or when shaping opinion.

When we met, Lakoff described frames as metaphors and conceptual frameworks that we use to interpret and understand the world. They give meaning to the words we hear more than the other way around, because words don’t have objective meanings independent of these metaphors. Frames are structures of thought that we all use every day to determine meaning in our lives; frames govern how we act. They are ultimately a blend of feelings, values and data related to how we see the world.

We can’t think without frames, Lakoff explained. “Every thought you have, every word is defined in terms of a frame. You can’t say any word that’s meaningful without it activating a frame.” Frames permeate everything we think and say, so the people who control language and set its frames have an inordinate amount of power.

Lakoff stressed that if you do a bad job of framing your story, someone else will likely do it for you and his comments reminded me of something my mentor in the PR business, Mike Sullivan, once said: “If you don’t tell them, someone else will—and it will be bad.” What Mike meant was if you are an unwilling or ineffective communicator, you leave yourself wide open to someone else doing serious damage.

A frame is a way of looking at the world that is value laden, and like a metaphor it conjures up all kinds of thoughts and emotions. Jackie Kennedy used a frame when she referred to her life as Camelot. “Ethical oil” and “tax relief ” are also frames. Such words evoke subconscious images and meanings, as opposed to factual statements such as “10 million scallops are dead,” a headline that appeared in February 2014 in a Vancouver Island newspaper.

What came to be called Climategate was an international campaign to discredit scientists on both sides of the Atlantic just before the 2009 Copenhagen summit on climate change. It took the momentum to set targets out of the conference. I was astonished to see how a group of legitimate climate scientists, with stacks of peer-reviewed evidence on their side, could lose debates to a group of people who had none — all because of a lens created by mischief-makers. Clearly, Climategate was a battle of frames versus facts, and the frames won.

The truth is, facts alone don’t change minds, said Lakoff, who wrote a book called Don’t Think of an Elephant, which explains how to frame political debates in terms of values not facts.

He believes that the progressive community contributes to confusion in the public square because of an outdated understanding of reason and consequent lack of persuasive communication. During our interview, he told me that progressives need a mental model that goes beyond cold, logical messaging that’s directly correlated to reality — a model which should embrace metaphors, a marriage of emotion and logic.

Liberals have an unemotional view of reason that dates back to French philosopher Descartes. Lakoff explained that when conservatives want to go into politics they study business, marketing and what makes people tick, whereas progressives study political science, law and public policy. Progressives don’t study cognitive science, neurology or how the brain works. “They learn a false view of reason that goes back to the 1600s…that says reason is conscious, logical and unemotional.”

It wasn’t long ago that risk communications experts, who study the power of facts, also assumed that giving people more information and evidence would ensure they made better decisions. But research shows facts don’t change minds, at least not in the way we think they do.

Lakoff said cognitive and brain science research has shown that reason is not rational without emotion, without an over-lay of values to make sense of facts. Simply put: frames trump facts.

“We have thousands of metaphors structuring our brains,” he told me. “We think in terms of them all the time and they’re not random, they’re not mythical, they’re things that allow us to get around in the world. We have to use them. Words aren’t neutral.”

They are the structure we use to think.

We should all have a commitment to the truth, he continued, but not let an understanding of facts overwhelm our job, which is to change the brains of people out there. “Every time you argue, you change your brain. Every time you tell somebody something else, you’re changing brains, because everything you think is physical; it’s all in the circuitry of your brain.”

But just speaking the truth isn’t enough to convince people of new ideas. If facts are to make sense and be perceived as urgent, they must be framed in terms of deep, deep values.

George Lakoff ’s advice is short and sweet: To be an effective communicator get clear on your values and start using the language of values. Drop the language of policy. “People do not necessarily vote their self-interest. They vote their identity. They vote their values.” He believes so-called inaction and apathy should warn progressives that the conservatives are winning the communications battle between moral imperatives: “It’s time to decide, either we are all in this together or it’s every man for himself.”

Progressive morality says citizens act responsibly to provide infrastructure, education, health care, transportation and basic research for one another. Progressives constrain stock markets and protect bank accounts. They believe that private profit depends upon public provision. Conservatism is all about personal responsibility. The importance of public services is minimal when compared with the benefits of private enterprise. Conservatives promote stock markets and regulate banks. They believe that human effort creates wealth.

Of course some people are conservative about some things and progressive about others. Lakoff calls this bi-conceptualism. It means you can have both moral systems operating in your brain at the same time, each inhibiting the other from time to time. The more active one is, the stronger it gets, and that’s where language and communication come in. It’s also why media in influences matter so much, as do the ways we communicate.

In politics and social issues, frames are hierarchically structured and at the top of that hierarchy are the moral frames. So the question often is: Is this a frame where citizens care about each other, act responsibly and where there is a robust sense of what’s good for all? Or is the frame telling us that someone believes they have the freedom to access their own self-interest but need not care about the interests of others?

When it comes to environmental issues, Lakoff explained that these conflicting moralities are tied to two very different ideas of our relationship with nature. For progressives: We are a part of nature and dependent on the environment. Nature has inherent value. For conservatives:

We are separate from and dominant over nature. Nature’s value is determined by its direct utility to people. Lakoff was quick to note that this is a simplification because most people aren’t ideologues, and bi-conceptuals are generally open to persuasion in either direction. The moderate has no ideology.

Every word is defined by an individual frame. A frame is a neural circuit. A neural circuit is made up of connections of neurons joined together by synapses. When a circuit is activated the synapses get stronger. If that circuit inhibits another circuit, then that other circuit’s synapses get weaker. When the synapses are stronger, it is easier to activate an idea in someone’s mind and therefore easier for it to spread to other issues. “So, repetition is what strengthens synapses. And it doesn’t matter if it is accurate.”

Suppose you’re a conservative, he said, and you want to create a frame that fits your moral system, but let’s suppose it has nothing to do with truth. You may be saying, for example, that cutting corporate taxes will create jobs. We know that’s false. Corporations are making more profits than ever before, are not hiring people because they’re outsourcing work, reaping the benefits of cheap labor in other countries or using more technology. They’re not “creating jobs.” So this is a false statement. But if conservatives call themselves job creators and repeat it over and over, people will think that cutting corporate taxes will create more jobs. The words are like a recurring jingle, stimulating a synapse and creating a thought pattern. That frame is activated over and over, and every time it is reactivated it grows stronger.

I asked Lakoff if it’s possible to set the record straight. Every time we say, “those are not job creators,” do we step into the job creator frame and imprint it again? By outlining facts, even in a logical statement of contradiction, do we always help reinforce the other side’s point of view?

Yes, he said. You lose the persuasion battle when you consistently step into your opponent’s frame; it reinforces their morality and their argument in the minds of your audience. The way to respond is to not mention the other frame. Only mention yours. Always start with your frame and stay in it. Always be on the offensive; never act defensively.

Framing is a system that has evolved because it works for every-day life, said Lakoff. “Free will is not totally free. It is radically constrained by the frames and metaphors shaping your brain and limiting how you see the world. Those frames and metaphors get there, to a remarkable extent, through repetition in the media.”

Everything you have learned is stored physically in your brain, he stressed. Every frame is in a brain circuit, every metaphor is in a brain circuit, every image is in a brain circuit. Your whole moral system is in your brain. If you hear something that doesn’t fit with what’s in your brain, it will go in one ear and out the other unless you are the type of person who remembers things that don’t quite fit and worries about them. But most people don’t.

Progressives must realize that their old-fashioned view of reason is false — that Descartes and the information injection theory of communication have not panned out.

More information about Jim Hoggan on "I'm Right and You're an Idiot."

Do you have trouble building up your self-confidence? If so, you are not alone. Everybody has trouble with building one’s self-esteem in today’s world. The key is to be persistent and to find the ways to improve your confidence so you can be successful in life.
Here are eight easy suggestions to increasing your self-esteem in your life.
1. Know Your Weaknesses and Strengths: It is important to know what you are good at. Taking a skills assessment test is a great way to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Once you realize your skill sets, the next step is to focus on those things that you are good at doing. A person can’ be good at everything so don’t take yourself too seriously.
2. Accept yourself: You are unique in this world. It is important that you do not beat yourself up over the things that you have trouble doing. Instead of complaining about what your weaknesses, try to find ways to improve your life. Take a class at a local community college to learn a new skill. Accept yourself for who you are.
3. Remember Your Successes: Many people downplay their successes and focus on those things they struggle with. This is a mistake. Always remind yourself of your past accomplishments no matter how small they may be. Do not downplay the positive parts of your life. Stop focusing on the negative parts of your life and instead concentrate on your past achievements.
4. Read Positive Affirmations: It is important that you read affirmations that make you feel confident. Read a self-help book and then write down all of the things that motivate you. Read something positive on a daily basis and reflect on what you can do to improve your situation. Don’t focus on the things that make you feel anxious and fearful.
5. Think About Your Future: Take time to think about what you really want out of life. Do not live your life for others. Spend a lot of time and energy thinking through what you really want in life and decide what is you really want to achieve. Once you determine what you want to accomplish, then write it down and use it as motivation.
6. Create Goals: Set achievable goals on a regular basis and then take small steps to accomplish them. Make sure your goals are measurable and monitor your progress. Don’t get upset if you don’t accomplish all of your goals. You can always change your goals so that you can be more successful.

7. Talk To Others: It is important that you talk to other successful people in order to get a better perspective of your life. Listening to other people’s challenges and accomplishments can go a long way in feeling better about yourself. You can also learn how to find ways to overcome your obstacles in your life.
8. Be Persistent: Do not give up in achieving your goals in your life. Learn from your mistakes and try to improve on your situation. Do not make excuses on why you should quit or give up. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to be successful. The key is to keep at it until you get what you want.

Author: Stan Popovich

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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Although musical preference is generally open to debate, the world seems to have come to a consensus about who deserves to be crowned the greatest band in history: The Beatles. Of course, you can disagree with this all you want, but The Beatles lead the pack in sales (nearly one billion albums sold, based on some estimates), number one hits (20!), and public opinion (if you Google “greatest band of all time,” The Beatles are the first search result). The Beatles are so beloved that Abbey Road, the road in London that served as the setting for their Abbey Road album cover, may employ a full-time crossing guard due to the dozens of adoring fans that stop in the road to take pictures.
With all of this success, it’s natural for us to wonder who the band members were, where they came from, and how they reached this level of musical genius. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell uses The Beatles as an example of how ten thousand hours of deliberate practice elevated the band to an elite level of performance. That may be the case, but one of their songs in particular originated in a single moment of pure inspiration, and it went on to become one of their greatest hits.
The song was called “Scrambled Eggs.” At least, that’s what Paul McCartney says they called it originally. He tells the story of how the melody came about:
I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, ‘That’s great, I wonder what that is?’ There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor 7th — and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to E. It all leads forward logically. I liked the melody a lot but because I’d dreamed it I couldn’t believe I’d written it. I thought, ‘No, I’ve never written like this before.’ But I had the tune, which was the most magic thing.
McCartney explained that the tune was so familiar to him that he went around asking other people in the music industry, “Who wrote this song?” Eventually he accepted that he had written the song himself–inspiration struck and the melody was born. At the outset, McCartney just sang along with silly lyrics, “Scrambled eggs…oh, my baby, how I love your legs…” because he only had the melody. The song eventually became “Yesterday.” It has dozens of accolades, including number one on the US Billboard charts, and may be the most “covered” song of all time. (I highly recommend the song, you can listen to it here.)
The Origins of Inspiration
If only it were that easy—you wake up in the morning next to a piano and sound out one of the greatest melodies of the last century. You may be surprised to learn that while this type of inspiration is clearly an outlier, finding inspiration is something that you can actually DO; you don’t need to wait for it to occur. Allow me to introduce you to the study of inspiration within the field of psychology.
In 2003, two psychologists at the University of Rochester, Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot, set out to conduct the definitive study of inspiration using psychology. This was not your average academic study—it was a seven-part study that tested dozens of hypotheses about inspiration and created a framework for studying it in the future. The entire research study was an impressive undertaking, and by the end the researchers had two very important results: 1) a psychological scale that could be used to measure inspiration, and 2) a list of over thirty personality traits with data to show whether these traits cause inspiration to occur. In essence, Thrash and Elliot turned inspiration into a science: if you exhibit particular personality traits, you’re more likely to be inspired.
That brings us to the burning question: What were the inspiring personality traits? Like I said, they tested over thirty different traits; some we
were directly related to inspiration, others not at all. Here are the top three traits, in order of how strongly they related to inspiration: openness to experience, self-esteem, and creativity.
Now obviously you can’t just pick-up some extra creativity in the checkout aisle at Walmart–it’s a personality trait; it’s part of who you are. But you can change your personality over time, and if you strengthen these traits in particular you can optimize yourself to receive McCartney-esque inspiration.
The Top Traits
Each personality trait has volumes of literature on its own, so I trust that you’ll dive into the ocean of research and find what works best for you. However, here are a few suggestions to get you started. And, since technology can be a powerful force in personal change, I’ll include a few apps that might help you along the way.
1. Openness to Experience
In their conclusions about this trait, Thrash and Elliot wrote, “These findings suggest that inspiration is facilitated by receptiveness.” Openness is certainly not an easy trait to develop. We like habits and customs because they give us comfort and security. For example, do you drive the same route to work every day? So do I. It’s the fastest route, that’s why I take it, but the repetition of the same sights every day doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of inspiration.
Here’s a simple suggestion to start being more open: Give up one thing you’re accustomed to. Try a new food, drive a new route to work, listen to a radio station that you’ve never heard before–anything to break an old routine. For years, I’ve ordered the same exact burrito from the menu at one of my favorite restaurants, Cafe Rio. I never order anything else, and honestly I don’t even know what else is on the menu. But if you’ll try a small experiment, I will too: the next time I visit Cafe Rio, I’ll order something different.
If you want to think bigger than just a new lunch entree or route to work, you might try out Everest, an app that’s meant to help you achieve goals. Everest seems to place an emphasis on trying new things, so the social community within the app might help nudge you in the direction of developing openness.
2. Self-esteem
Inspiration comes more frequently to people with high self-esteem, and that makes sense: with high self-esteem, you’re less likely to set artificial limitations on your own abilities or be inhibited by what other people might think. Low self-esteem can have deep psychological roots and I’m certainly not qualified to offer advice for such a complex issue. Instead, I’ll offer a simplistic suggestion that is applicable to self-esteem: avoid comparing yourself to others.
I’ve written before that comparing yourself to other people is a worthless exercise because there will always be someone smarter, richer, and more beautiful than you are. And that’s based on statistics: you virtually have no chance of ever being the BEST in the world at anything. (If it makes you feel better, I’m right there with you!) So rather than focusing on everything you don’t have, make an inventory of what you DO have.
I’m sure there are hundreds of tools you can use to list what you have and what you’re grateful for; I’ve found one app that I especially like, called Grateful. Every day it asks for one thing you are grateful for, with a simple and effective interface.

3. Creativity
Creativity is similar to openness in that we need to let go of conventional or routine ways of doing things to find new ways of expressing ourselves. Unfortunately we often have default habits that we rely on in situations that might otherwise yield creativity. For example, when we stand in line at a fast food restaurant, we don’t exhibit any creativity in attempting to preoccupy ourselves–we just scroll away on our smartphones. In fact, not long ago some psychologists found that most people would rather be electrocuted than sit alone by themselves.
If you’d like to be more creative, my app suggestion is a bit counterintuitive. Choose to use an app that limits your smartphone functionality so that it becomes less of a distraction. Stop opening apps, checking notifications, and taking phone calls to devote more time to clear thinking. An app for this on iPhone is called Mobile Flow. It works in conjunction with Airplane mode on your phone, so it eliminates all unnecessary distractions. Deliberate focus can allow you to think and be creative without distractions, so I highly recommend the app.
Max Ogles is the author of Boost: Create Good Habits Using Psychology and Technology which is free on Amazon for a limited time. He writes about behavior change, psychology, and technology at You can sign up for his free app guide, “117 Apps to Help You Create Good Habits” or receive free updates from his weekly newsletter.
Originally published at

Monday, 24 July 2017

THE history of science could have been so different. When Charles Darwin applied to be the “energetic young man” that Robert Fitzroy, the Beagle’s captain, sought as his gentleman companion, he was almost let down by a woeful shortcoming that was as plain as the nose on his face. Fitzroy believed in physiognomy – the idea that you can tell a person’s character from their appearance. As Darwin’s daughter Henrietta later recalled, Fitzroy had “made up his mind that no man with such a nose could have energy”. Fortunately, the rest of Darwin’s visage compensated for his sluggardly proboscis: “His brow saved him.”

The idea that a person’s character can be glimpsed in their face dates back to the ancient Greeks. It was most famously popularised in the late 18th century by the Swiss poet Johann Lavater, whose ideas became a talking point in intellectual circles. In Darwin’s day, they were more or less taken as given. It was only after the subject became associated with phrenology, which fell into disrepute in the late 19th century, that physiognomy was written off as pseudoscience.

Now the field is undergoing something of a revival. Researchers around the world are re-evaluating what we see in a face, investigating whether it can give us a glimpse of someone’s personality or even help to shape their destiny. What is emerging is a “new physiognomy” which is more subtle but no less fascinating than its old incarnation.

First impressions are highly influential, despite the well-worn admonition not to judge a book by its cover. Within a tenth of a second of seeing an unfamiliar face we have already made a judgement about its owner’s character – caring, trustworthy, aggressive, extrovert, competent and so on (Psychological Science, vol 17, p 592). Once that snap judgement has formed, it is surprisingly hard to budge. What’s more, different people come to strikingly similar conclusions about a particular face – as shown in our own experiment (see “The New Scientist face experiment")

People also act on these snap judgements. Politicians with competent-looking faces have a greater chance of being elected, and CEOs who look dominant are more likely to run a profitable company. Baby-faced men and those with compassionate-looking faces tend to be over-represented in the caring professions. Soldiers deemed to look dominant tend to rise faster through the ranks, while their baby-faced comrades tend to be weeded out early. When baby-faced men appear in court they are more likely than their mature-faced peers to be exonerated from a crime. However, they are also more likely to be found guilty of negligence.

There is also a well-established “attractiveness halo”. People seen as good-looking not only get the most valentines but are also judged to be more outgoing, socially competent, powerful, sexually responsive, intelligent and healthy. They do better in all manner of ways, from how they are greeted by other people to how they are treated by the criminal justice system.

Is there any substance to such snap judgements? Are dominant-looking people really more dominant? Are baby-faced people naive? Are we electing the most competent leaders, or simply people who look the part? As psychologist Alexander Todorov of Princeton University points out, the fact that different people come to remarkably similar conclusions about a particular face is very different from saying there is a correspondence between a face and something real in an individual’s personality.

There is, however, some tantalising evidence that our faces can betray something about our character. In 1966, psychologists at the University of Michigan asked 84 undergraduates who had never met before to rate each other on five personality traits, based entirely on appearance, as they sat for 15 minutes in silence (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol 4, p 44). For three traits – extroversion, conscientiousness and openness – the observers’ rapid judgements

matched real personality scores significantly more often than chance.

More recently, researchers have re-examined the link between appearance and personality, notably Anthony Little of the University of Stirling and David Perrett of the University of St Andrews, both in the UK. They pointed out that the Michigan studies were not tightly controlled for confounding factors: the participants could have been swayed by posture, movement, clothing and so on. But when Little and Perrett re-ran the experiment using mugshots rather than live subjects, they also found a link between facial appearance and personality – though only for extroversion and conscientiousness (British Journal of Psychology, vol 98, p 111).

While these experiments suggest that our snap judgements of faces really do contain a kernel of truth about the personality of their owner, Little stresses that the link is far from clear-cut. He and Perrett only found a correlation at the extremes of personality, and other studies looking for links with different aspects of personality have failed to find any association at all. The owner of an “honest” face, for example, is no more likely to be trustworthy than anyone else.

What is also not fully understood is why we make facial judgements so readily. Is there an evolutionary advantage to judging books by their covers? Little suggests that because these judgements are so rapid and consistent – and because they can indeed reveal aspects of personality – it is likely that evolution has honed us to pick up on the signals.

Support for this, and the kernel of truth idea, has come from a study of 90 ice-hockey players published late last year by Justin Carré and Cheryl McCormick of Brock University in Ontario, Canada. They found that a wider face in which the cheekbone-to-cheekbone distance was unusually large relative to the distance between brow and upper lip was linked in a statistically significant way with the number of penalty minutes a player was given for violent acts including slashing, elbowing, checking from behind and fighting (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol 275, p 2651)

They also found a link between the facial width-to-height ratio and the male sex hormone testosterone. According to the results of a recent pilot study by Carré, men with wider faces have higher testosterone concentrations in their saliva.

The critical – and as yet unanswered – question is whether people judge men with wider faces as more aggressive. McCormick and Carré are studying this, and though the results are not all in, McCormick says a preliminary analysis suggests that they do.

If this pans out, it would mean that men with high testosterone levels, who are known to be bigger, stronger and more dominant, are more likely to have rounder faces – and that we evolved to judge such faces as aggressive because their owners are more likely to attack us. Carré stresses, however, that the face is only one of many cues that we use to read the intentions of others. “It is not the be all and end all of assessing people.”

The kernel of truth idea isn’t the only explanation on offer for our readiness to make facial judgements. Leslie Zebrowitz, a psychologist at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, says that in many cases snap judgements are not accurate. Our readiness to judge books by their covers, she says, is often an “overgeneralisation” of a more fundamental response (Social and Personality Psychology Compass, vol 2, p 1497).

A classic example of overgeneralisation can be seen in predators’ response to eye spots, the conspicuous circular markings seen on some moths, butterflies and fish. These act as a deterrent to predators because they mimic the eyes of other creatures that the potential predators might see as a threat, or are simply conspicuous in their own right.

Zebrowitz says the same thing may be true of our reaction to baby-faced men, who on first impression are generally judged to be submissive and naive. Just as an eyespot is not an eye, so a person with a baby face may not be babyish, but an observer is likely to respond as if they are, she says. It is a similar story with our reaction to unattractive faces, which she says is an overgeneralisation of an evolved aversion to people who are diseased or suffer from some genetic anomaly. There is also “familiar face overgeneralisation”, whereby people are judged to have the traits of others who they resemble.

Another researcher who leans towards overgeneralisation is Todorov. With Princeton colleague Nikolaas Oosterhof, he recently put forward a theory which he says explains our snap judgements of faces in terms of how threatening they appear. Todorov and Oosterhof asked people for their gut reactions to pictures of emotionally neutral faces, sifted through all the responses, and boiled them down to two underlying factors: how trustworthy the face looks, and how dominant. They then worked out exactly which aspects of facial appearance were associated with looking trustworthy, untrustworthy, dominant or submissive.

Next they generated random faces on a commercial program called FaceGen and morphed them into exaggerated caricatures of trustworthy, untrustworthy, dominant or submissive faces. An extremely trustworthy face, for example, has a U-shaped mouth, and eyes that form an almost surprised look. An untrustworthy face has the corners of the mouth curled down and eyebrows pointing to form a V (see diagram).

Finally, they showed these faces to people and asked them a different question: what emotions did they appear to be expressing? People consistently reported that trustworthy faces looked happy and untrustworthy ones angry, while dominant faces were deemed masculine and submissive ones feminine.

Todorov and Oosterhof conclude that personality judgements based on people’s faces are an overgeneralisation of our evolved ability to infer emotions from facial expressions, and hence a person’s intention to cause us harm and their ability to carry it out (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 105, p11087).

Todorov, however, stresses that overgeneralisation does not rule out the idea that there is sometimes a kernel of truth in these assessments of personality. “I would not say there is no accuracy at all in these judgements, particularly in the case of dominance,” he says. “It is not the case that overgeneralisation and kernel of truth ideas are mutually exclusive.”

So if there is a kernel of truth, where does it come from? How exactly do some personality traits come to be written all over our faces? In the case of the ice-hockey players there are links between facial appearance, testosterone levels and personality. But there are other possibilities.

Perrett has a hunch that the link arises when our prejudices about faces turn into self-fulfilling prophecies – an idea that was investigated by other researchers back in 1977 (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol 35, p 656). Our expectations can lead us to influence people to behave in ways that confirm those expectations: consistently treat someone as untrustworthy and they end up behaving that way.

“Infants with masculine faces grow up to be children and adults with masculine faces,” Perrett says. “Parental and societal reactions to these cues may help shape behaviour and personality. In essence, people would be growing into the character expected of their physiognomy.”

This effect sometimes works the other way round, however, especially for those who look cute. The Nobel prize-winning ethologist Konrad Lorenz once suggested that baby-faced features evoke a nurturing response. Support for this has come from work by Zebrowitz, who has found that baby-faced boys and men stimulate an emotional centre of the brain, the amygdala, in a similar way.

But there’s a twist. Baby-faced men are, on average, better educated, more assertive and apt to win more military medals than their mature-looking counterparts. They are also more likely to be criminals; think Al Capone. Similarly, Zebrowitz found baby-faced boys to be quarrelsome and hostile, and more likely to be academic high-fliers. She calls this the “self-defeating prophecy effect”: a man with a baby face strives to confound expectations and ends up overcompensating.

Baby-faced men are better educated, more assertive and more apt to win military medals

There is another theory that recalls the old parental warning not to pull faces, because they might freeze that way. According to this theory, our personality moulds the way our faces look. It is supported by a study two decades ago which found that angry old people tend to look cross even when asked to strike a neutral expression. A lifetime of scowling, grumpiness and grimaces seemed to have left its mark.

This takes us back to Darwin himself. He referred to how “different persons bringing into frequent use different facial muscles, according to their dispositions; the development of these muscles being perhaps thus increased, and the lines or furrows on the face, due to their habitual contraction, being thus rendered more conspicuous.” Once again, Darwin was ahead of his time: in an intriguing way, we get the face we deserve.

The New Scientist face experiment

Our experiment examined whether some subtle aspects of our psychological make-up might be related to facial appearance, while offering readers the chance to appear on the cover of this issue in a composite image.

We asked readers to submit a photograph of themselves looking directly at the camera, and to complete a simple online personality questionnaire. In this they rated how lucky, humorous, religious and trustworthy they considered themselves to be. More than 1000 people were kind enough to submit their photographs and ratings.

From these personality self-assessments we identified groups of men and women scoring at the extremes of each of the four dimensions. We then took these people’s photographs and blended them electronically to make several composite images.

The face-blending technique we used was pioneered more than a century ago by the Victorian polymath Francis Galton, a cousin of Darwin. The principle behind it is simple. Imagine having photographs of two people who look very different. To create a composite we manipulate digitised versions of the images to align key facial landmarks such as the corners of the mouth and eyes. This allows us to calculate an average of the two faces. For example, if both faces have bushy eyebrows and deep-set eyes, the resulting composite would also have these features. If one face has a small nose and the other has a large nose, the final image would have a medium-sized nose.

The composites all looked very different from one another, but would people be able to identify the personalities of the people behind the images? To find out, we paired up composites from the extreme ends of each dimension and posted them online at So, for example, the composite face from the women who had rated themselves as extremely lucky was paired with the composite from those who had rated themselves as very unlucky. More than 6500 visitors to the site attempted to identify the lucky, humorous, religious and trustworthy faces.

From this it seems that women’s faces give away far more than men. An impressive 70 per cent of people were able to correctly identify the lucky face, and 73 per cent correctly identified the religious one. In line with past research, the female composite associated with trustworthiness was also accurately identified, with a statistically significant 54 per cent success rate. Only one of the female composites was not correctly identified – the one from the women who assessed themselves as humorous.

The results for the male composites were very different. Here, our respondents failed to identify any of the composites correctly. The images identified with being humorous, trustworthy and religious all came in around chance, whilst the lucky composite was only correctly identified 22 per cent of the time. This suggests that our perception of lucky-looking male faces is at odds with reality.

Why should these big sex differences have emerged? Perhaps female faces are simply more informative than male ones. It could also be that the men who sent us their portraits were less insightful when rating their personalities or less honest. Or perhaps the women were more thoughtful when selecting the photographs they submitted.

The results of our pilot study were fascinating and should hopefully pave the way for additional work. They show that people readily associate facial appearance with certain personality traits, and suggest that there may be a kernel of truth in their judgements.

Our findings explored some dimensions not usually examined in this kind of research, and raise the intriguing possibility that, among women at least, subtle aspects of an individual’s personality may indeed be written all over her face.

Roger Highfield is the editor of New Scientist
Richard Wiseman is a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, UK
Rob Jenkins is a psychologist at the University of Glasgow, UK

Sunday, 23 July 2017

When anxiety strikes, you need fast relief. Here are six ways to tame your anxiety, without medication or a doctor's office visit.

By Kathleen Doheny

Medically Reviewed by Michael Cutler, DO, PhD

The smell of lavender can quickly relieve anxiety.Shutterstock
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the U.S., affecting about one out of five people at any given time, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Anxiety can take many forms — generalized anxiety disorder (constant worrying about everyday things), obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder.

While medications to treat these anxiety conditions are often an important component in the management of anxiety, there is also many natural, do-it-yourself techniques that can help calm you down, either in place of medications or as a supplement to them.

Next time you're too tense to cope, consider trying one of these natural options for relief.

1. Laugh it off. Cultivate a good sense of humor and laugh, says  Karen Lynn Cassiday, PhD, president-elect of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and a clinical psychologist in Chicago.  "Even if you do a fake laugh, you get an instant hit of dopamine," says Dr. Cassiday. Dopamine is a brain chemical that controls feelings of reward and pleasure.

If you're too tense to laugh on your own, try using technology, she suggests. For example, find a laugh track phone app. Just google phone apps for laughing.

In a study presented at a medical meeting, Loma Linda University researchers found that even anticipating a mirthful laugh reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which increases when you are anxious.

2. Schedule relaxation. "Sit down and look at your schedule," says Katherine Raymer, MD, ND, associate clinical professor of naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, Seattle.

"Is there a time to put in a half hour to do whatever you do that is relaxing?" Dr. Raymer asks. That can be a walk, meditation, yoga, tai chi or anything you find relaxing.

Researchers trying to help shy men with social anxiety found that a period of relaxation helped them, lowering their heart rates after they interacted with people.

3. Take GABA. The supplement GABA, sold online and in health food stores, may help calm anxious people, Raymer says.

Short for gamma-aminobutyic acid, GABA is a brain transmitter that counteracts the action of another neurotransmitter, glutamate that increases your excitability.

Researchers found that individuals who ate chocolate enriched with GABA before tackling an arithmetic task were less stressed after completing it than those who didn't have the GABA-infused chocolate.

It is important to remember that supplements such as GABA can interact with medications, so it's crucial to check in with your doctor before taking them on your own, she says. "Get your doctor's permission, even if you are not taking other medication.”

4. Try lavender. Try lavender essential oil to calm yourself, Raymer says. "We have people put a drop of it on their collarbone," she says. "The smell wafts up. The odor is very relaxing." Or, you can rub it gently into your temple, she saw

In a 2012 study of women anxious about having a medical procedure, researchers found that those who inhaled lavender a half hour before the procedure were calmer than those who did not.

Again, don’t forget to check first with your doctor before using the essential oil lavender, Raymer says.

5. Ground yourself. When anxiety hits, ''do something tangible," says John Tsilimparis, MFT, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles and adjunct professor of psychiatry at Pepperdine University.

"Take your house keys out, run your fingers along the keys," says Tsilimparis. "That sensation will give you 'grounding.' Pick up a paperweight, hold it in your hand. Or, get an ice cube. Hold it as long as you

can do it."

Why does this work? "Your brain can't be in two places at once," he says. The activity distracts you from the anxious feelings. "Your mind will shift from racing, catastrophic thoughts [that accompany anxiety] to the cold ice cube in your hand," he says.

According to some research, using a virtual reality distraction system can reduce anxiety during dental procedures. Patients immersed in VR — a computer-generated realistic environment — reported less pain and anxiety than when they didn't use it.

6. Face the fear. "If something makes you scared, face it," says Cassiday. If you feel shy, go out to social functions, she says. Scared of clowns? Go to the circus.

It can help, too, to understand that when you worry about what might happen — such as no one will talk to you at the party — your anxiety just rises. Your anxious worry is about the uncertainty, she says. "What a worrier really wants is a promise that everything is going to be OK.''

But uncertainty is part of life, she says. Exposure therapy, or facing the fear, helps you learn to live with risk and uncertainty.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Worrying can be helpful when it spurs you to take action and solve a problem. But if you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios, worry becomes a problem. Unrelenting doubts and fears can be paralyzing. They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your daily life. But chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive perspective.

Why is it so hard to stop worrying?
No one likes the way constant worrying makes you feel, so why is it so difficult to stop? The answer lies in the beliefs—both negative and positive—you have about worrying.

On the negative side, you may believe that your constant worrying is going to spiral completely out of control, drive you crazy, or damage your health. On the positive side, you may believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things, prepare for the worst, or come up with solutions. You may even believe that worrying shows you’re a caring and conscientious person.

Negative beliefs, or worrying about worrying, add to your anxiety and keep it going (much in the same way worrying about getting to sleep often keeps you awake). But positive beliefs about worrying can be even more damaging. It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying protects you. In order to stop worry and anxiety for good, you must give up your belief that worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.

Tip 1: Create a worry period
It’s tough to be productive in your daily life when anxiety and worry are dominating your thoughts. But what can you do?

Telling yourself to stop worrying doesn’t work—at least not for long. You can distract yourself for a moment, but you can’t banish anxious thoughts for good. In fact, trying to do so often makes them stronger and more persistent.

You can test this out for yourself. Close your eyes and picture a pink elephant. Once you can see it in your mind, stop thinking about it. Whatever you do, for the next 60 seconds, don’t think about pink elephants!

How did you do? Did thoughts of pink elephants keep popping in your brain?

Why trying to stop anxious thoughts doesn’t work

“Thought stopping” backfires because it forces you to pay extra attention to the very thought you want to avoid. You always have to be watching for it, and this very emphasis makes it seem even more important.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to control worry. You just need a different approach. This is where the strategy of postponing worrying comes in. Rather than trying to stop or get rid of an anxious thought, give yourself permission to have it, but put off dwelling on it until later.

Learn to postpone worrying
1. Create a "worry period" Choose a set time and place for worrying. It should be the same every day (e.g. in the living room from 5:00 to 5:20 p.m.) and early enough that it won’t make you anxious right before bedtime. During your worry period, you’re allowed to worry about whatever’s on your mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.

2. Postpone your worry. If an anxious thought or worry comes into your head during the day, make a brief note of it and then continue about your day. Remind yourself that you’ll have time to think about it later, so there’s no need to worry about it right now.

3. Go over your "worry list" during the worry period. If the thoughts you wrote down are still bothering you, allow yourself to worry about them, but only for the amount of time you’ve specified for your worry period. If they don’t seem important any more, cut your worry period short and enjoy the rest of your day.

Postponing worrying is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries when you’ve got other things to do, yet there’s no struggle to suppress the thought or judge it. You simply save it for later. And as you develop the ability to postpone your anxious thoughts, you’ll start to realize that you have more control than you think.

Tip 2: Ask yourself if the problem is solvable
Research shows that while you’re worrying, you temporarily feel less anxious. Running over the problem in your head distracts you from your emotions and makes you feel like you’re getting something accomplished. But worrying and problem solving are two very different things.

Problem solving involves evaluating a situation, coming up with concrete steps for dealing with it, and then putting the plan into action. Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time you spend dwelling on worst-case scenarios, you’re no more prepared to deal with them should they actually happen.

Distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries

If a worry pops into your head, start by asking yourself whether the problem is something you can actually solve. The following questions can help:

Is the problem something you're currently facing, rather than an imaginary what-if?
If the problem is an imaginary what-if, how likely is it to happen? Is your concern realistic?
Can you do something about the problem or prepare for it, or is it out of your control?
Productive, solvable worries are those you can take action on right away. For example, if you’re worried about your bills, you could call your creditors to see about flexible payment options. Unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. “What if I get cancer someday?” or “What if my kid gets into an accident?”

If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming. Make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on finding the perfect solution. Focus on the things you have the power to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. After you’ve evaluated your options, make a plan of action. Once you have a plan and start doing something about the problem, you’ll feel much less worried.

Dealing with unsolvable worries

But what if the worry isn’t something you can solve? If you’re a chronic worrier, the vast majority of your anxious thoughts probably fall in this camp. In such cases, it’s important to tune into your emotions.

Worrying helps you avoid unpleasant emotions. Worrying keeps you in your head, thinking about how to solve problems rather than allowing yourself to feel the underlying emotions. But you can’t worry your emotions away. While you’re worrying, your feelings are temporarily suppressed, but as soon as you stop, they bounce back. And then, you start worrying about your feelings: “What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t feel this way!”

Learn to embrace your feelings

This may seem scary at first because of negative beliefs you have about emotions. For example, you may believe that you should always be rational and in control, that your feelings should always make sense, or that you shouldn’t feel certain emotions, such as fear or anger.

The truth is that emotions—like life—are messy. They don’t always make sense and they’re not always pleasant. But as long as you can accept your feelings as part of being human, you’ll be able to experience them without becoming overwhelmed and learn how to use them to your advantage.

Tip 3: Challenge anxious thoughts
If you suffer from chronic anxiety and worries, chances are you look at the world in ways that make it seem more dangerous than it really is. For example, you may overestimate the possibility that things will turn out badly, jump immediately to worst-case scenarios, or treat every negative thought as if it were fact. You may also discredit your own ability to handle life’s problems, assuming you’ll fall apart at the first sign of trouble. These irrational, pessimistic attitudes are known as cognitive distortions.

Although cognitive distortions aren’t based on reality, they’re not easy to give up. Often, they’re part of a lifelong pattern of thinking that’s become so automatic you’re not even completely aware of it. In order to break these bad thinking habits and stop the worry and anxiety they bring, you must retrain your brain.

Start by identifying the frightening thought, being as detailed as possible about what scares or worries you. Then, instead of viewing your thoughts as facts, treat them as hypotheses you’re testing out. As you examine and challenge your worries and fears, you’ll develop a more balanced perspective.

Stop worrying by questioning the anxious thought

What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen? If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
What would I say to a friend who had this worry?
Cognitive distortions that add to anxiety, worry, and stress
All-or-nothing thinking – Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground. “If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”
Overgeneralization – Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever. “I didn’t get hired for the job. I’ll never get any job.”
The mental filter – Focusing on the negatives while filtering out all the positives. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
Diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count. “I did well on the presentation, but that was just dumb luck.”
Jumping to conclusions – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader, “I can tell she secretly hates me.” Or a fortune teller, “I just know something terrible is going to happen.”
Catastrophizing – Expecting the worst-case scenario to happen. “The pilot said we’re in for some turbulence. The plane’s going to crash!”
Emotional reasoning – Believing that the way you feel reflects reality. “I feel frightened right now. That must mean I’m in real physical danger.”
'Shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ – Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do and beating yourself up if you break any of the rules
Labeling – Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings. “I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”
Personalization – Assuming responsibility for things that are outside your control. “It’s my fault my son got in an accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain.”

Tip 4: Accept uncertainty
The inability to tolerate uncertainty plays a huge role in anxiety and worry. Chronic worriers can’t stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with 100 percent certainty what’s going to happen. Worrying is seen as a way to predict what the future has in store—a way to prevent unpleasant surprises and control the outcome. The problem is, it doesn’t work.

Thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable. You may feel safer when you’re worrying, but it’s just an illusion. Focusing on worst-case scenarios won’t keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. So if you want to stop worrying, start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers.

Accepting uncertainty: The key to anxiety relief

To understand the problems of refusing to accept uncertainty, ask yourself the following 4 questions and write down your responses.

Is it possible to be certain about everything in life?
What are the advantages of requiring certainty, versus the disadvantages? Or, how is needing certainty in life helpful and unhelpful?
Do you tend to predict bad things will happen just because they are uncertain? Is this a reasonable thing to do? What is the likelihood of positive or neutral outcomes?
Is it possible to live with the small chance that something negative may happen, given its likelihood is very low?
Source: Accepting Uncertainty, Centre for Clinical Interventions

Tip 5: Be aware of how others affect you
How you feel is affected by the company you keep, whether you’re aware of it or not. Studies show that emotions are contagious. We quickly “catch” moods from other people—even from strangers who never speak a word (e.g. the terrified woman sitting by you on the plane; the fuming man in the checkout line). The people you spend a lot of time with have an even greater impact on your mental state.

Keep a worry diary. You may not be aware of how people or situations are affecting you. Maybe this is the way it’s always been in your family, or you’ve been dealing with the stress so long that it feels normal. Try keeping a worry diary for a week or so. Every time you start to worry, jot down the thought and what triggered it. Over time, you’ll start to see patterns.

Spend less time with people who make you anxious. Is there someone in your life who drags you down or always seems to leave you feeling stressed? Think about cutting back on the time you spend with that person or establish healthier relationship boundaries. For example, you might set certain topics off-limits, if you know that talking about them with that person makes you anxious.

Choose your confidantes carefully. Know who to talk to about situations that make you anxious. Some people will help you gain perspective, while others will feed into your worries, doubts, and fears.

Tip 6: Practice mindfulness

Worrying is usually focused on the future—on what might happen and what you’ll do about it. The centuries-old practice of mindfulness can help you break free of your worries by bringing your attention back to the present. In contrast to the previous techniques of challenging your anxious thoughts or postponing them to a worry period, this strategy is based on observing and then letting them go. Together, they can help you identify where your thinking is causing problems, while helping you get in touch with your emotions.

Acknowledge and observe your anxious thoughts and feelings. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them like you usually would. Instead, simply observe them as if from an outsider’s perspective, without reacting or judging.

Let your worries go. Notice that when you don’t try to control the anxious thoughts that pop up, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. It’s only when you engage your worries that you get stuck.

Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If you find yourself getting stuck on a particular thought, bring your attention back to the present moment.

Using mindfulness meditation to stay focused on the present is a simple concept, but it takes practice to reap the benefits. At first, you’ll probably find that your mind keeps wandering back to your worries. Try not to get frustrated. Each time you draw your focus back to the present, you’re reinforcing a new mental habit that will help you break free of the negative worry cycle.

Resources and references
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: When Worry Gets Out of Control – Why we worry and what we can do to combat pessimistic predictions, relieve anxiety, and stop chronic worrying. (National Institute of Mental Health)

What? Me Worry!?! – Self-help course with 11 sequential modules or workbooks that teach you how to stop worrying and get anxiety relief. (Centre for Clinical Interventions, Department of Health, Government of Western Australia)

Understand the Facts – Information about everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders. (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: April 2017.

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