Overcoming the Bystander Effect | The Psychology of Heroism

BBC Article

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was killed outside her apartment building in densely populated Queens, New York. As the story goes, there were dozens of people that heard the young woman screaming for help but none of them acted or went to Genovese’s aid. The infamous murder launched decades of studies investigating the “bystander effect,” where a diffusion of responsibility and fear of risk leads to inaction on the part of people who may be able to rectify a risky situation.

“Fear is a huge de-motivator for people,” Matt Langdon said in a phone interview. Langdon is the founder of the Hero Construction Company, a company that helps train everyday people to develop and foster heroic tendencies. Langdon has worked closely with renowned psychological researcher Philip Zimbardo, one of the foremost authorities on the bystander effect and its impacts on human behavior. “What we try to do is increase the small chance that any one person will act and make it more likely they’ll do something. And once that happens, that’s a gateway to other people helping and they might be motivated to get past their fear to do something as well.”

Breaking that dam of apprehension can be as simple as someone speaking up when they see something troubling. In 2018, a young woman riding in a crowded subway car in New York was verbally assaulted at random by another straphanger, later identified as Anna Lushchinskaya. It wasn’t until Lushchinskaya started kicking the young woman that people stepped in between attacker and her victim, physically restraining Lushchinskaya until police were able to apprehend her. The entire exchange was captured on camera, and it’s a prime example of how a simple action can break down the barrier of the bystander effect swiftly.

But why does the bystander effect happen in the first place? Frank Farley, a professor of psychology at Temple University and former head of the American Psychological Association, believes that humans are unique in their ability to manage and assess risk and adapt quickly to situations requiring that sort of critical thinking. “If there’s a lot of people around during an incident, you may feel that you don’t have to take a risk,” he said. “So you don’t have to jump into the swirling river or run into the burning building.”

iStock-482688711.jpg

Stephanie Preston, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, says that those reactions aren’t just present in humans either. She points to a research study where rats were presented with an opportunity to help a fellow rodent and that, once an unfamiliar rat was released into the scenario, the group of familiar rats saw their stress hormones spike. “When there’s strangers, there’s this added inhibition from acting,” she said. “There’s this fear of what the other people are going to think, or what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to judge you, and you don’t have any knowledge about if they could be more helpful.” Diffusion of responsibility and fear of judgement are driving factors behind the bystander effect, and why many would rather do nothing than risk making a serious mistake.

The same self-preservation instinct goes into the “freeze” response many people have to especially traumatic events. Many who report freezing up during a trauma also report entering a sort of dissociative state and not being able to recall the events. Researchers say that could be the body attempting to reduce emotional stress both during the event and in its aftermath, an emotionally protective reaction that can dull the impacts of afflictions like PTSD.

Freezing is what happens when neither fight nor flight is a viable option, but overcoming paralysis during events where those options are available is about being equally cognizant of what your brain is doing as well as cultivating a pattern of action. “Nobody is born with courage, it is literally something that you have to learn,” Kate Swoboda, psychologist and author of “The Courage Habit”, said. “If you practice courageous behaviors once, they can be replicated again. The more they are practiced and replicated, the more they become part of someone’s identity. Then once it becomes part of your identity, it becomes a habitual response to stress instead of shutting down, instead of backing away.” Heroism is less about exceptional individuals swooping in to save the day than everyday people acting on instincts that have been developed over a lifetime.

iStock-165926956.jpg

It can even be something developed through the course of a career. When terrorists swept into the Taj Hotel in Mumbai in 2008, it was the hotel staff that stepped up and became heroes. The Taj is legendarily committed to service, and many have credited that philosophy with saving countless lives during the assault. “It’s not that the staff were fearless, they were very scared, but it was despite those fears that they acted heroically and selflessly,” said Anthony Maras, director of the upcoming film “Hotel Mumbai,” which tells the story of the Taj Hotel attacks. “There were all these key moments where the staff could have opted to save themselves or they could put themselves at great risk in order to save their guests.” More often than not, the Taj staff chose the latter, putting themselves in the crosshairs of a terrorist’s gun in order to save strangers. “The staff were there for them,” Maras said.

You don’t have to risk life and limb to be a hero, though. Farley, the Temple professor, breaks heroism into two categories with equal merit. “‘Big H’ heroism is the extreme behavior, saving a life, running into a burning building,” he said. “‘Small H’ heroism is about gratitude. Helping someone across the street, helping a friend that’s being bullied in school.” It all comes down to cultivating a personality that works against simply being a bystander when faced with a stressful situation. “The opposite of a hero isn’t a villain,” says Langdon, of the Hero Construction Company. “It’s a bystander.”

4 Compelling Reasons You Need To Be More Self-Aware

Author Article Link

In the FBI Academy, we trained how to run down and tackle individuals who resisted arrest. I was a lousy runner and came up at the rear of every race. The idea that I could run down or even catch up with a suspect produced snarky comments and rolled eyes from my classmates.

My ego took a big hit, but I also knew my competence as an FBI agent must be grounded in reality. I needed to be self-aware so I could make an honest assessment of my skills and strengths. Only at that point could I plan for ways to grow my strengths so I could manage my weaknesses.


How important is self-awareness? A study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University examined the performance of 72 executives from a variety of companies. It found that “a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.”

As entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders, self-awareness is essential to your success. It’s stupid to pretend that you don’t have flaws or weaknesses. Instead, be smart and get ahead of them so they don’t sabotage you when you’re confronted with a stressful situation.

Here are four compelling reasons you need to be more self-aware:

1. Understand how you come across to others

The way we perceive ourselves is distorted, but most of us are not self-aware enough to recognize it! If we don’t want to be known as stingy, arrogant or self-righteous, we don’t look for those qualities in ourselves. Of course, we readily identify those qualities in other people! If we want to be perceived as competent, polite and generous, guess what? Those are the qualities we find in ourselves.

There is enough ego in all of us to produce a flattering self-image that might not be congruent with how others see us. The way we see ourselves is often an illusion, and it can be a dangerous one if we misjudge how we come across to our colleagues and supervisors.

Conversely, if you suffer from a lack of self-esteem, you could be undermining your position and chances for advancement as you navigate the quagmire of office politics.

How to make it work for you: Be mentally tough enough to keep your ego in check. Ask trusted friends or colleagues to give an honest evaluation of how you come across to others in a variety of situations. Don’t take the easy route and ask for feedback on your best behavior. Let the good, the bad and the ugly hang out, and be brave enough to push for honest answers.

2. Become aware of your deepest needs

Since we all possess a somewhat muddled and inaccurate image of how we come across to others, it shouldn’t be a shock to learn that we tend to justify our motives through rose-colored glasses as well. In fact, psychologists believe it’s important that our brain sees a clear connection between our thoughts, emotions and behavior. This strong connection leads to good mental health. However, thinking or feeling one way and then behaving in a different manner causes cognitive dissonance, and we experience anxiety and stress as we try to justify the behavior.

Behavioral science has proven that human beings are motivated by several needs. At a basic level is the biological drive to eat, drink and sleep. Another motivator is reward and punishment, such as when we work for a salary and are rewarded with a paycheck. It is the third motivator that requires self-awareness — the things we pursue because they bring us joy and contentment. Shelley E. Taylor, UCLA psychology professor, has argued that we are wired to nurture others and care for their needs.

These are the hidden needs that ennoble the human spirit, but they also take effort and time to process because they are complicated and complex drivers of our behavior. Too often we settle for a fleeting emotion such as happiness because it’s both instant and a popular meme. But, at the end of the day, our deepest need is to make a contribution to society that is meaningful to us.

How to make It work for you: You can move toward a deeper and enduring sense of what motivates you if you are self-aware. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Another great question to ask yourself at the end of each day is this: “Was I better today than yesterday?” Again, ask trusted colleagues or friends for feedback, but make sure it is honest and constructive.

3. Create a mindset that wins

If you think of yourself as flexible and resilient, you will do much better in both business and life. Your image of who you are influences how you behave and thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Carol Dweck’s research at Stanford University has determined that if we view a trait as mutable, we are inclined to work on it more. On the other hand, if we view a trait such as IQ or willpower as unchangeable, we’ll make little effort to improve it.

Dweck is well-known for her work on “fixed vs. growth mindset.” People with a fixed mindset believe their basic abilities, intelligence and talents are fixed traits. They have a certain amount of talent and nothing will change it. People with a growth mindset, however, believe that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort and persistence.

If you create a growth mindset, you have the mental toughness to learn from criticism rather than ignore it; to overcome challenges rather than avoid them; and find inspiration in the success of others rather than feel threatened.

Self-aware people can create a growth mindset that’s focused on personal growth because they believe they can improve and develop their skills.

How to make It work for you: The best way to change the type of person that you believe you are is through small, repeated actions. Focus on the process, not the outcome. Don’t worry about how to write a best-seller; instead, commit to publishing your ideas on a consistent basis. It’s not about the result. It’s about how to create a mindset that enjoys the results.

4. Prevent self-deception

According to psychologists, our tendency for self-deception stems from our desire to impress others. We convince ourselves of our capabilities in the process.

Human beings are masters of self-deception. We lie to ourselves about why we like to wear designer clothes, drive fast cars and climb the corporate ladder. Most of the time, we’re completely unaware of the deception going on in our minds.

Companies lose serious money every year due to their employee’s lack of self-awareness. Inaccurate self-assessment leads to sales targets that can’t be met, deadlines that can’t be carried out and performances that are promised but not delivered.

Interestingly, most of us have no trouble seeing through the delusions of our colleagues! We recognize the bumbling idiot who postures for a promotion or the incompetent supervisor who mumbles in meetings.

If we are self-aware and see ourselves with greater clarity, we are more likely to land on our feet when confronted with the unexpected

How to make It work for you: Honesty is the best tool to combat self-deception. It means we will need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for who we are. Honesty requires a deliberate effort on a daily basis. We must learn to observe our emotions, thoughts and behavior without judgment or evaluation. If we are self-aware, it is easier for us to focus our mind, concentrate and direct our attention toward activities that will give us the opportunity to change.

This article originally appeared on LaRae Quy.

6 Things Adults With Childhood Emotional Neglect Need to be Happy

Author Article

Funny thing about people who grow up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): they go through their entire adult lives with a set of requirements for happiness in their minds. But sadly, those requirements end up keeping them from being happy.

CEN folks don’t know it, but the things they think will make them happy have little to do with their actual happiness. In fact, their notion of happiness is mostly about protecting themselves.

Growing up with your feelings unvalidated (Childhood Emotional Neglect) sets you up to feel that there is something wrong with you for simply having normal human feelings. Then, moving through your adulthood, you then feel you must not only protect yourself from your own feelings and needs but also hide them from others.

The 6 Things CEN People Think They Need to be Happy   

  1. To be 100% self-reliant: The child of Emotional Neglect looks to his parents for emotional support and validation but, too often, no one is looking back. This is how he learns that asking for help is wrong. This is why the child, once a CEN adult, believes that his own happiness depends on his own self and no one else, and feels very vulnerable about asking or accepting help. From anyone.
  2. To never, ever, ever appear emotional or needy: Yes, the CEN adult judges her own feelings and emotional needs as a weakness. So she naturally assumes that everyone else will judge her the same way. I have seen CEN people try to hide their desire to find a spouse, conceal the warm feelings they feel toward a friend, or try hard to conceal their hurt feelings from the person who hurt them.
  3. To make no mistakes: CEN folks are highly tolerant of other people’s mistakes, but when it comes to themselves, the opposite is true. I have told many of my CEN clients that they expect themselves to be superhuman and never make mistakes.
  4. To not be asked about their feelings: The CEN man or woman lives in dread of their spouse asking them what they feel. To them, that question seems intrusive, impossible, and perhaps just plain wrong. “As long as no one asks me, I’ll be happy,” they tell themselves.
  5. To have no conflict: CEN people tend to avoid conflict. Conflict feels threatening because it requires skills they don’t have enough of, like identifying their own feelings and expressing them with an awareness of the other person’s feelings too. It’s not the fault of the emotionally neglected child that he did not learn those complex skills. His parents simply didn’t teach him.
  6. To keep most people in their lives at a distance: Deep down, the CEN person harbors a fear that something is wrong with her. She’s not sure what it is, and she can’t put it into words, but one thing she does know is that she doesn’t want anyone else to see it. So she keeps herself shut down, or walled off, to prevent anyone from getting too close. “As long as no one sees my flaws, I’ll be happy,” she tells herself.

What CEN People Actually Need To Be Truly Happy

  1. To ask for help, and accept it: To really be happy, you can learn the beauty of mutual dependence, and the empowerment of accepting support from others who care. Taking the risk to ask for help and accept it opens doors to validation, comfort, and solace that only makes you stronger, not weaker as you have always believed.
  2. To accept your own needs as valid and real: Your parents taught you that you have no right to have emotional needs. But when you try to deny or hide them, you are denying and hiding your deepest self, and this can never make you happy. Accepting your feelings and needs will allow you to honor and express yourself in a way that can lead to true happiness.
  3. To learn the voice of compassionate accountability, and use it: “It’s OK, nobody’s perfect,” you might say to a friend. And now, it’s time to turn your compassion toward yourself. You can learn to talk yourself through mistakes so that you grow from them, while also holding in your mind the reality that everyone makes errors. This is the voice of compassionate accountability, and it will set you free.
  4. To become comfortable identifying and sharing your feelings: Learning these skills gives you a new way of managing difficult feelings. That’s because naming a feeling immediately takes some of its power away. It also gives you the ability to think about that feeling, begin processing it, and finally, if needed, share it. The better you can do this, the deeper and more rewarding your relationships can be.
  5. To view conflict as a normal part of life: Conflicts are the opposite of avoidable, because when you avoid them, they only fester, making matters worse. When you view conflict as an opportunity to work out problems, you can start addressing problems directly when they occur. This gives you the ability to make your relationships stronger, and make you overall happier.
  6. To let the people in your life get closer to you: Research shows that human connection is one of the life factors that contributes the most to human happiness (and perhaps even the top one). So the harder you work on these six areas of your life, the more you will notice that instead of draining you as they always have, your relationships are now actually giving you energy.

These 6 Things Are Not as Hard as You Think

The most difficult thing about these six things boils down to three things: taking risks, tolerating making yourself vulnerable, and doing things that feel, on some level, wrong. But it’s important to recognize that you’ve been walking the path your parents set for you for years. It’s not your fault; it just is.

To make these changes, you will need to make a choice to take a new and different path. A path that feels unfamiliar, yes. Vulnerable, yes. Wrong, yes.

But it’s a path that will heal the effects of the Emotional Neglect you were raised with and offer you the true, connected happiness that you’ve always deserved.

Childhood Emotional Neglect can be difficult to see and remember. To find out if it affects you, Take The CEN Questionnaire. It’s free.

For help learning how to identify, name and process your feelings, see the book Running On Empty. For help with improving your relationships, see the book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.

What Happens When You Embrace Dark Emotions

Author Article

When I was 15, my mother died in a car accident. Not knowing how to deal with the enormity of my loss and grief, I threw myself into homework and activities. I never missed a day of school and tried to control everything in my life. This strategy succeeded in some ways—I was able to get good grades, for example. But the inner cost of pushing away my grief and sadness showed up in other ways. I became anxious around things I couldn’t control, like unexpected changes in plans and minor injuries. And as I grew older, I started to harbor irrational worries, such as the fear of exposing my baby in utero to toxic fumes when walking past a strange smell. It was not until later, after my first child was born, that I was able to fully grieve the loss of my mother with the help of a therapist and feel all of the emotions I had spent so many years trying to ward off. As I write in my new book, “Dancing on the Tightrope,” the desire to avoid what’s unpleasant and seek what’s pleasant is part of human nature. But avoiding unpleasant emotions—rather than accepting them—only increases our psychological distress, inflexibility, anxiety, and depression, diminishing our well-being.

Dancing on the Tightrope: Transcending the Habits of Your Mind and Awakening to Your Fullest Life” (Wellbridge Books, 2018, 172 pages)

Research suggests that when we turn toward our cravings, we’re less likely to engage in addictive behaviors. When we turn toward our physical pain, we’re less likely to be trapped in cycles of chronic pain. When we turn toward our sadness, we’re less likely to be stuck in depression. And, when we turn toward our anxiety, we’re less likely to be paralyzed by it and can find it easier to bear.

Learning to embrace dark emotions not only reduced my anxiety but also gave me the ability to experience the joys of life more fully and trust in my ability to handle life’s challenges. As a therapist, I have also seen tremendous healing with my patients as they have learned to embrace their difficult emotions.

If we want to live more fully and be our most authentic selves, we need to turn toward our pain, not try to suppress it. But what can help us get there? The tools of mindful attention, self-compassion, and acceptance—which all come together in a practice I call “The Door.”

To do this practice yourself, make sure to start with emotions that aren’t too intense. You might want to work with a skilled therapist, especially for more intense emotions. Here’s what The Door involves.

Step 1: Develop a Willingness to Open the Door

Imagine that you’re opening the door and welcoming your emotions to come and have a seat somewhere in the room. You can picture this seat as close to or as far away from you as you like. From this perspective, you can take a gentle and curious look at what is there.

Often people will picture their emotions as having some kind of color, shape, or form. Sometimes they envision their emotions as cartoon characters or as younger parts of themselves. Part of the practice is simply to accept whatever arrives.

This is a new experience for most people. Who wants to let anxiety in the door? Who wants to welcome in sadness or anger? But when we let in whatever arrives and see it from a bit of a distance, we can take a curious look and explore what is there.

Step 2: Take a Curious Look at Whatever Walks in the Door

Mindfully observing what we’re feeling can help us cope with whatever is before us. It can be useful to name our feelings—”Oh, that’s hurt; that’s jealousy; that’s anger”—because, as simple as this sounds, we often don’t pay attention to the nuances of what we’re feeling. Consequently, important information gets lost along the way. Labeling our distressing emotions gives us a way of validating our inner experience, but it has the added benefit of dialing down their intensity.

It can also be beneficial to see our emotional “visitors” as temporary guests. Adding the phrase “in this moment” to a statement like “I am feeling stress, anger, or hurt” can help us be with what is there without feeling overwhelmed. Other things you might say to yourself include:

  • Can I allow myself to notice how this is showing up in my body and in my thoughts?
  • If this feeling or part of me could talk, what might it say?
  • What might it want or need?

Being curious rather than fearful or rejecting your emotions provides a better lens for understanding them.

Step 3: Give Yourself the Gift of Compassion

Besides pushing away uncomfortable feelings, many of us have been conditioned to judge our emotions in negative ways. We’ve learned that if we show sadness, it’s a sign of weakness, that we’re a bad person if we feel anger or jealousy, and that we should “move on” when we experience loss. When we come face-to-face with difficult emotions, we often tell ourselves to buck up and stop being silly or that there’s something wrong with us.

When we practice mindfulness in combination with self-kindness and a recognition of our common humanity—the fact that we all suffer as human beings—we cultivate self-compassion, a quality that’s been linked to psychological well-being.

To practice self-compassion, imagine sitting with a good friend who is suffering and think about how you might extend a gesture of compassion. What would your body language be like? How might you listen? What sensations would you feel around your heart?

Now picture that person extending compassion towards you. What might they say or do? What words would you find comforting or soothing?

Chances are, they wouldn’t be telling you to cut it out or that you shouldn’t be feeling this way. They might say, “That sounds really hard. I’m here for you.” Or perhaps they would simply extend a hand.

When we can learn to sit mindfully with our own emotions and bring compassion to whatever we’re experiencing, it’s as if we have become that caring friend, sitting with ourselves. Learning to be there for ourselves, through the positive moments—and the painful ones—can be tremendously healing.

While embracing our dark emotions takes courage and practice, using The Door technique allows us to open to a gift on the other side. Each time we practice being with our difficult emotions, we grow inner resources, learn to trust in our capacity to handle our experiences, develop resilience to move through life’s challenges, and find ways to pursue what truly matters. Each of us has the power to face what is hard if we only open the door.

Beth Kurland is a clinical psychologist, public speaker, and author of three books, including “Dancing on the Tightrope: Transcending the Habits of Your Mind and Awakening to Your Fullest Life,” from which this essay was adapted. This article was republished from Healthline.com

Personal Productivity Is A Personal Choice

Author Article

Many people live their lives by circumstance with no plan. As a result, some wind up unhappy. How many times a day do you hear, “I just don’t have the time” or “There are not enough hours in the day”?

We are all busy working on something — in our jobs or our personal lives, fulfilling commitments to others, striving to be productive. But as many time-management experts have said, we are often too busy to be productive.

There is an array of products and services available to manage time better; many of them are somewhat efficient. Still, most are based on managing circumstantial time — when to have which meeting, how long each meeting should last, etc. — rather than being goal-driven. Of course, there are goal-focused seminars and programs, but attendees sometimes come up with goals to appear as though they are participating. Those goals may not be real, and accordingly, they have no power.

“OK,” you may say, “what does work?”

Take The Path Of Common Sense 

Firstly, most of what I’m about to write is common sense. However, I’ve found that sometimes common sense is frequently less than common. People work too hard to make sense of what they are doing, making everything more complicated than necessary.

To keep things simple, I try to develop three sets of goals: business, family and personal. In setting these goals, I am diligent not only to assure that I can attain each but also include a genuine happiness level I will give myself when I succeed. Hence, the goals have power and prepare me to make the choices I need to meet them.

Common sense? Sure, but clearly, there is more.

For instance, it makes sense to keep a calendar, and a lot of executives work hard at abiding by their calendars. But often, others have control of that calendar, scheduling meetings, trips, even personal things like remembering anniversaries or perhaps a child’s play date, which augurs well for being programmed by circumstance.

To me, it’s common sense to control my calendar myself. That way, I empower me, not circumstance, to schedule by my goal-driven plan.

Stop ‘Trying To Do It All’

“Ah,” you may react, “that sounds great, but you can’t control the workplace environment — stuff just happens.”

That’s true to a certain degree, but if one is assiduous in planning against a set of goals, there will be enough time to react to and deal with the inevitable circumstantial events. Let’s take this concept a step further with one example.

Usually, by late Wednesday, I have enough emails about however many meetings there will be the next week. I look at all of them carefully and objectively and decide which meetings I must go to. If a meeting does not fit into my goal plan and somebody else can cover it, I decide to do something that advances my goals. These types of choices save me hundreds of hours a year.

Common sense, right? For me, yes. But I find that many people seem to feel as though attending every meeting or conference call makes them important. Consequently, they fail at being productive overall because they are too exhausted and stressed from “trying to do it all.”

Granted, as a senior leader, I may have more leeway in controlling my calendar than others might, but I firmly believe that anybody who starts with the confidence and diligence to control their calendar against a broader life plan will facilitate other time-management practices.

I’m not advocating that we cavalierly thumb our noses at things we don’t want to do. Responsible scheduling requires maturity and objectivity to assess reality. I am suggesting that by making a plan that includes conscientious, measured choices in how we control our time, we can generate the personal productivity it takes to attain our goals and enjoy the happiness that brings.

How Journaling Can Teach You to Love Your Body

Author ArticleJournaling can transform not only my physical health, but also emotional and spiritual health.

I didn’t always love my body. In fact, for years, I hardly thought about it at all.

My body was a machine that I worked relentlessly and neglected constantly. It was simply a tool that my brain used to get where it needed to go. I paid no mind to aching muscles, searing headaches and other signs of stress and exhaustion. I ignored my body’s needs until a major health challenge forced me to stop and recognize the obvious: my body isn’t a machine at all. It’s an integral part of me that requires love, care and respect.

I began journaling every day as a way to get back in touch with my body. This practice has transformed not only my physical health but also my emotional and spiritual health. I started listening to what my body was telling me and making decisions to embrace a full, healthy and balanced life.

Why Journaling?

Researchers have been tracking the positive effects of journaling for decades.

Over the years, studies have found that expressive writing can lead to significant benefits, including short- and long-term health outcomesbetter immune system performancestress and anxiety reduction and relief from chronic illnesses, such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

And a 2017 study from the University of Arizona showed that for people going through a divorce, narrative writing exercises – telling the story of their divorce, not just documenting their feelings about it – improved how their bodies responded to cardiovascular stress.

Journaling helps us strengthen the mind-body connection that we often neglect. Putting pen to paper supports us in large and small ways, making room for our thoughts, feelings and experiences in a tangible way.

How to Start Journaling

  • Start small.
  • Make it a daily habit.
  • Feel free.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You may want to write lengthy entries every day, but start with a smaller, more manageable goal. Commit to writing for five minutes or a few lines, and congratulate yourself when you reach that goal. If you want to keep writing, go for it (and celebrate that victory too).

Build on your gradual start, and make your small journaling goal a part of your daily life. Find a time of day that works best for you – such as when you’re drinking your morning coffee or you’re about to get ready for bed. Don’t debate whether you should journal or not; just make it a daily habit.

If you can’t figure out what to journal about, try free-writing. Simply jot down anything that comes to mind without filtering or editing it. Keep your pen moving until you reach your writing goal.

5 Journaling Prompts

  1. Take several deep breaths, and do a mental scan of your body from head to toe. What feels good? What feels off? What is your body telling you?
  2. Imagine you have an entire day to pamper yourself. What do you do? How does each part of the day rejuvenate you?
  3. Write a love letter to your body. What do you appreciate about it? What are you thankful for? How can you express your gratitude?
  4. Describe a sensory experience that has stuck with you – a meal, a smell, a hike, a physical activity. What did it feel like throughout your body? Why did it make such an impression on you?
  5. Write about a time you felt wonderful in your own skin. What was happening? Why did you feel strong, beautiful, capable or empowered? How can you recreate that feeling?

Journaling is a powerful way to care for your body, as well as your mind and spirit. Make daily journaling an essential part of your journey to total aliveness.

This post courtesy of Spirituality & Health.

When Depression Makes Me Numb, Not Sad

Author Article

When depression makes me numb, the lack of feeling anything is, paradoxically, a terrible feeling.

People who don’t experience or understand depression are often told it’s not as simple as feeling sad. This is truer than I can adequately describe; there are many facets to depression. One symptom I wish more people understood is feeling numb. A sense of hollowness — like a dull, numb lump — often defines me when I’m really down. It’s a shitty, zombie state of gray flatness. Life passes by and you won’t bother to wave at it because you don’t really care. In fact, you just don’t really feel anything.

How does numbness link to depression? Well, one explanation I find helpful is that, when the strain of depression is extreme, experiencing emotions feels exhausting. There is no joy in my favorite activities or excitement in making plans. I don’t feel the same outrage at things that should anger me, nor do I bother to get annoyed at gripes. It’s all too much.

Volume 90%

 

From numbness to nothingness.

The frightening thing about feeling numb is that it’s the cruel cousin of despair. A deep indifference to oneself and to the world is a step towards believing neither is worth fighting for. Your existence feels detached; you think you’re inconsequential. This is a dangerous, fragile space, because your perspective on the value of life is horribly distorted. The consequence can be a sense of inertia and apathy, or even worse, self-destructive behavior and thoughts.

When nothing in life feels meaningful or worthy, it is alienating and dreadful. Your relationships and work may suffer, as those around you may interpret your attitude as being deliberately indifferent or distant.

For something that feels like nothing, numbness is a godawful thing.

Finding feeling again.

When you’re in a dark place, try to remember that it will get better. I know you probably bully this thought into a corner of your mind. I know it can sound patronizing or glib. Numbness is a hard nut to crack, because it inherently defies the will to feel.

There might be one special thing that gets you out of the numbness prison — whether it’s seeing a friend, watching South Park or baking biscuits. I hope you find it.

19 Ways to Get Through a Challenge, According to Science

Author Article

Waiting in line at the post office. Paying attention to a monotone lecture. Commuting on a tuna-scented train. Life is full of unpleasant and necessary tasks like these — what psychologists call “aversive activities.” A new studyasked a simple question: What are the best ways to get through them?

19 Ways to Lose Your Lazy

For the study, which was published in December in the European Journal of Personality, researchers sought to discover the key to success (at least, self-reported success) in aversive tasks. Was there a secret recipe for perseverance?

To start, though, they asked exploratory questions via the crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk. What strategies did online respondents use to “keep themselves going” through mentally and physically taxing challenges? Researchers boiled responses down to 19 broad strategies, which included giving yourself a pep talk, promising yourself a reward at the end of the task, and taking a substance (say, chugging an energy drink).

The strategies were as follows:

  1. Changing the activity itself, or how it’s performed (without adding an external incentive), like running slower on the treadmill or taking notes while you study
  2. Changing the environment in which the activity is performed, such as working from a coffee shop or taking a new running route
  3. Reducing or removing distractions and temptations like closing social media or turning off your phone
  4. Seeking social support like taking a friend with you to the gym
  5. Taking a substance like drinking coffee or downing an energy drink
  6. Task enrichment like listening to music while you work out or watching TV while you fold laundry
  7. Focusing on the activity itself and how you’re performing it
  8. Distracting your attention by focusing on something else
  9. Anticipating self-reward like playing a video game when you’re done with homework
  10. Focusing on the negative consequences of not completing the task
  11. Focusing on the positive consequences of completing the task
  12. Goal setting, or breaking the task down into sub-goals, like “I will write 200 words in the next 20 minutes.”
  13. Monitoring progress, like checking how much time is left in your workout
  14. Planning/scheduling, like setting a specific time for performing the activity
  15. Reappraisal, or using a different frame of mind for the activity (for example, imagine you’re running in a race)
  16. Motivating self-talk, or telling yourself you can do it
  17. Thinking about the finish and letting yourself know you’re almost done
  18. Suppressing the impulse to quit even though you want to
  19. Emotion regulation like trying to stay in a good mood throughout the activity

Researchers then asked a second group of Mechanical Turk recruits to take a self-control assessment and rate each of the 19 broad strategies. How often did they use each type? All the time? Never? This gave a sense of which strategies were most popular.

More importantly, by comparing the strategy ratings with the respondents’ self-control assessments, the researchers could get a sense of which strategies were most popular among people with high self-control. For these people, the most popular strategies included things like setting goals, making plans and schedules, regulating their emotional state, and focusing on the positive consequences of the unpleasant activities at hand.

Then came the meat of the study: Researchers followed 264 participants, mostly female students, for a week. Each day, they checked in with study respondents seven times; the check-ins were always at least an hour apart and conducted via a digital survey that expired within an hour.

The survey had three parts. First, it asked respondents if they’d done something unpleasant in the last hour, and if so, what type of unpleasant task it had been. Then it asked them what strategies they had used to persevere through the task. Finally, it asked if they had successfully completed the task.

You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It

Ultimately, there was no silver bullet. People used different strategies for persevering through different types of activities. For example, respondents rarely used “task enrichment,” like listening to music, for emotionally challenging tasks like a relationship talk, but that was common for physically challenging tasks like running on a treadmill.

However, a cluster of strategies still emerged as possible keys to success. Focusing on the positive consequences of finishing an activity — or, conversely, on the negative consequences of abandoning it halfway through — was linked with success. Another successful strategy was imagining the finish line was near, even when it wasn’t. (In other words, it was helpful to break the task into a series of mini-tasks, so you were always near a finish line.)

Finally, emotional regulation — so, doing whatever you need to do to boost your mood, or at least keep it from falling into the deepest depths of despair — was correlated with success. Once people were in a bad mood, their tenacity dropped.

Researchers found that among respondents with high self-control, focusing on positive consequences and regulating emotions were especially popular. However, these strategies didn’t explain self-controlled people’s higher success rate with aversive tasks. They seemed to still bring some special sauce to their treadmill workouts and dull study sessions that transcended any one strategy.

Even if you’re a naturally self-indulgent soul, though, you can use perseverance hacks to get closer to your goals. You don’t have to be innately disciplined to send a package at the post office — though we won’t lie. It helps.

Get stories like this one in your inbox or your headphones: Sign up for our daily email and subscribe to the Curiosity Daily podcast.

Learn more about how to get through challenges in Angela Duckworth’s book“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

A 5-Minute Meditation Practice You Can Do Anywhere to Let Go of Jealous

Author Article

How To Overcome Jealousy Meditation

Getty Images

If you’ve ever wondered how to stop being jealous after a scroll through your Facebook feed leaves you feeling like a crazy person, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too. As ashamed as we might be to admit it, jealousy is a tough demon to beat.

Before Facebook posts were a thing, I could go about my daily life not knowing what my ex was doing with his new girlfriend or what amazing new job a high school classmate had just got. But now we’re in the modern world, and we have the privilege — and burden — of knowing everything about everyone. Well, maybe not everything. Social media, after all, is just a highlight reel.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to remember that we shouldn’t really be comparing ourselves to others. Why? Because our feelings of envy can linger and have unpleasant effects on our mood and our perspective of our own lives. So, If you’re feeling or have ever felt like the grass was greener on the other side, you might want consider giving meditation a try.

How can meditation help jealousy?

Most people think of meditation for stress relief, but not everyone considers jealousy a stressor. The truth is, feeling jealous can indicate that a person’s sense of safety is threatened, so these emotions really should be addressed. Luckily, meditation can actually work to rewire the brain for more positive thinking and relief from envious feelings.

According to Psychology Today, meditation affects the prefrontal cortex, more specifically the “Me Center” of the brain — the same part associated with jealous feelings. It also affects the amygdala, or the “fear center,” that governs our fight or flight response. Balancing these systems with meditation can help you to gain control over negative thoughts and emotions, and can even improve your ability to connect with others. Scroll down for a simple practice to get started with today.

1. Notice your feelings.

The first step to overcoming any problem is becoming aware of it. Meditation doesn’t always look like someone sitting down in a tranquil environment with flute music in the background. It can be as simple as taking a moment — in any environment or situation — to pause and to notice.

When a jealous feeling arises, acknowledge it. Before you run off on a thought tangent, take a moment and a deep breath into your belly and recognize that the feeling is there. You might say (aloud or to yourself), “I am feeling jealous.” Observing your thoughts gives you the power to take control of their direction. Simple enough, right?

2. Breathe and reflect.

The magic of meditation is really in the breath. Once you’ve noticed that you’re feeling jealous, simply paying attention to your breathing and taking slow, conscious breaths can ease the tension by bringing you back to the present moment. It can even stop you from following that one negative thought down a rabbit hole of more pessimism.

This practice may seem really simple, but it’s tough at first since our brains are conditioned in old habits of thinking. Try to practice your breathing for at least one minute, with deep inhales into your belly and deep exhales out, making the exhales longer than the inhales. With repetition, this exercise can be the one that saves you from what may be the most common happiness killer — overthinking.

3. Practice letting go — and use a mantra.

If it were as simple as “just let it go,” then you probably wouldn’t have read this far. The idea of letting a negative thought or thought pattern go is great, but our brains don’t necessarily work that way. If we’re going to give up a habit that’s essential to the way we view ourselves and others in the world, we need to replace it with something. That’s where a mantra comes in.

Your mantra doesn’t have to be complicated; all it has to do is propose a positive to replace a negative thought. Because jealousy often arises as a result of feeling inadequate, mantras combat jealousy by focusing on abundance. Think about it this way, if you believe there’s enough for everyone, there’s nothing to compete for.

Your mantra could be something like, “I have enough. I am abundant,” if you’re struggling with feeling like others have more than you have, or “I am enough,” if you find that you’re struggling with feeling inadequate. To use your mantra, simply repeat it slowly over and over, with a big long breath in between each repetition. Do this for a few minutes, even if it feels like lying at first — which it might if your mind is fighting to tell you the old same story. Saying a mantra gives your mind something else to focus on and introduces a new way of thinking. Eventually, and with repetition, you’ll start to actually believe it.

A simple meditation practice like this one can do wonders in training the mind to think more positively about ourselves and the world around us. Taking some time in our day to pause, breathe, and reflect is an act of self care that allows us to connect with ourselves in a way that benefits everyone. We hope that you’ll give this practice a try and remember, the grass is always greener where it’s watered.

9 Ways To Free Yourself From Rumination

See Author Article Here

Of all my symptoms of depression, stuck thoughts are by far the most painful and debilitating for me. The harder I try to move the needle from the broken record in my brain, the louder the song becomes.

Ruminations are like a gaggle of politicians campaigning in your head. Try as you might to detach from their agenda, their slogans are forefront in your mind, ready to thrust you down the rabbit hole of depression. Logic tells you they are full of bull, but that doesn’t keep you from believing what they have to say.

Ever since the fourth grade, I have been fighting obsessive thoughts. So for four decades, I have been acquiring tools for living around them, continuously trying out strategies that will deliver them to the back of my noggin. Sometimes I am more successful than others. The more severe my depression, the more pervasive the thoughts. I don’t promise you tips to get rid of them forever, but here are some ways you lessen their hold over you.

1. Distract Yourself

Distraction is an appropriate first line of defense against ruminations. If you can, divert your attention to a word puzzle, a movie, a novel, or a conversation with a friend, in order to tune out what your brain is shouting. Even a five-minute reprieve from the broken record will help your mood and energy level, allowing you to focus on the here and now. However, if you simply can’t distract yourself — and I fully realize there are times when you can’t — don’t force it. That’s only going to make you feel more defeated.

2. Analyze the Thought

Obsessions usually contain a kernel of truth, but they are almost always about something else. Understanding the root of the thought and placing it in its context can often help you to let go of it, or at least minimize the panic over what you think it’s about. For example, a friend of mine was obsessing about the size of his backyard fence. A few times a day, he knelt beside the fence with a measuring stick, fretting that it wasn’t tall enough. The obsession was never really about the fence. It was about his wife who had just been diagnosed with dementia. Scared of losing her, he exercised what control he did have over the fence.

My recent ruminations are similar. I was obsessing about a mistake I made, or a decision I made that had consequences I didn’t consider. Once I realized that my obsession was really about something that happened 30 years ago, I breathed a sigh of relief.

3. Use Other Brains

It can be extremely difficult to be objective when you’re in the heat of ruminations. The politicians are incredibly convincing. That’s why you need the help of other brains to think for you — to remind you that your rumination isn’t based in reality. If you can, call on friends who have experienced obsessive thoughts themselves. They will get it. If you don’t have any, consider joining Group Beyond Blue on Facebook. This online depression support group is full of wise people who have guided me out of ruminations many times.

4. Use Your Mantras

I have ten mantras that I repeat to myself over and over again when cursed with obsessive thoughts. First, I channel Elsa in Disney’s “Frozen” and say or sing “Let it go.” I also repeat “I am enough,” since most of my ruminations are based on some negative self-assessment — usually how I handled a certain situation.

The most powerful mantra for ruminations is “There is no danger.” Panic is what drives the obsessive thoughts and makes them so disconcerting. You believe you are literally going to die.

In his book Mental Health Through Will Training psychiatrist Abraham Low writes, “You will realize that the idea of danger created by your imagination can easily disrupt any of your functions … If behavior is to be adjusted imagination must interpret events in such a fashion that the sense of security … overbalances the sentence of insecurity.” In other words, there really is no danger.

5. Schedule Rumination Time

Sometimes a rumination is like a tantruming 2-year-old who just wants a little attention. So give it to him. Some parenting experts say by acknowledging the kid, you provoke more tantrums. However, my experience with tantruming toddlers and with ruminations is that sometimes if you turn your attention to the kid or the thought, the screaming ends. You don’t want to stay indefinitely with the thought, but sometimes you might get a reprieve by setting aside a certain amount of time for your brain to go wherever it wants. Let it tell you that you are a despicable human being and that you screwed everything up once again. When the time is up, say, “Thank you for your contribution. I need to do other things now.”

6. Lessen Your Stress

Like most people I know, the severity of my ruminations are directly proportional to the amount of stress in my life. Recently, when the stress at work and at home were off the charts, so, too, were my ruminations. My brain was literally on fire, and no technique could quiet the thoughts.

Be proactive about lessening your stress. You might not have to make the dramatic changes that I did — resigning from a job. A little tweak in your schedule to allow for some relaxation may be all you need.

7. Do a Thought Log

Take a sheet of paper and draw three columns. In the first column, record your thought and assign a percentage of how strongly you believe it. For example, “I’m never going to recover from that mistake,” 90 percent. In the second column, list the cognitive distortions associated with that thought. For example, the above example involves “mental filtering,” “all or nothing thinking,” “jumping to conclusions,” “overgeneralization” and “catastrophizing.” In the third column, write a compassionate response to the thought THAT YOU BELIEVE and a percentage.

For example, “My decision may or may not have been a mistake, but it surely isn’t the end of me, and chances are that I can learn a lesson from it that will improve my life in the future,” 90 percent. If your percentage of the compassionate statement is lower than the original thought, tweak the compassionate response until the percentage is equal or higher than the original thought.

8. Be Kind to Yourself

The most important thing you can do to relieve the anguish of these thoughts is to be kind and gentle with yourself. In her book Self-Compassion Kristin Neff, Ph.D., offers a beautiful mantra she developed to help her deal with negative emotions, a reminder to treat herself with self-compassion when discomfort arises: “This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.”

Ruminations are, without doubt, moments of suffering. Self-compassion is your most powerful antidote.

9. Admit Powerlessness

If I have tried every technique I can think of and am still tormented by the voices inside my head, I simply cry Uncle and concede to the stuck thoughts. I get on my knees and admit powerlessness to my wonderful brain biochemistry. I stop my efforts to free myself from the obsessions’ hold and allow the ruminations to be as loud as they want and to stay as long as they want because, here’s the thing, they do eventually go away.