Learning Resilience SkillsLearning Resilience Skills

Most people want to be happier, not just less depressed or anxious. I’ve studied with the founding scientist of Positive Psychology (and 'learned optimism'), Dr. Marty Seligman.

Overview

Anyone is eligible to take 1 or a series of courses online taught by Dr. Seligman and others. These courses translate the best of research on how to be more resilient, including the components of the U Penn resilience program:

Learning Resilience Skills 1

Downloaded at
https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/resilience-programs/resilience-skill-set

Video Lectures by Scholars

Watch videos spanning the gamut of positive psychology (e.g., the science – and myths – of well-being, resilience, gratitude, love, happiness, compassion, hope, grit, growth mindset, wisdom, flow, self-control, creativity & aging) by the following thought leaders:

  • Christopher Peterson
  • Martin E.P. Seligman
  • Angela Duckworth
  • Tal Ben-Shahar
  • Barry Schwartz
  • Ed Diener
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Barbara Fredrickson
  • Roy Baumeister
  • Robert Emmons
  • Shane Lopez
  • Sonja Lyubomirsky
  • Carol Dweck
  • Dacher Keltner
  • George Vaillant
  • Amy Wrzesniewski

Online Assessments (free)

Take free questionnaires at Dr. Seligman’s website to assess your:

  • Top Character Strengths (VIA Survey of Character Strengths Questionnaire)
  • Optimism
  • Gratitude
  • Grit
  • Meaning in Life
  • Close Relationships
  • Depressions (CES-D)
    and many more

 

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Can You Learn Hope and Optimism?Can You Learn Hope and Optimism?

Research clearly indicates that even the most die-hard pessimist can learn, using CBT, to use an optimistic explanatory style … and reap the benefits of a longer, healthier, and more satisfying life.

Summary

Research clearly indicates that even the most die-hard pessimist can learn, using CBT, to use an optimistic explanatory style … and reap the benefits of a longer, healthier, and more satisfying life.

The 3 P’s of Learned Optimism

An intersection between CBT and Positive Therapy is translating Seligman’s research in learned optimism. In therapy, we work on how to manage the  3 P’s of a pessimistic explanatory style. How do you explain setbacks to yourself?

Permanence:  An optimist will explain a negative event as temporary; a pessimist will see it as permanent.

Pervasiveness:  An optimist will specify that a failure is specific to particular conditions; a pessimist will see a failure in life as being a total failure in all of life.

Personal:  An optimist will take responsibility for a failure, in context to all the other contributors to it; a pessimist will blame himself without that other context.

For more details about the research behind ‘Learned Optimism’ check out Dr. Seligman’s book.

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How we change our brain - in minutesCBT changes your brain

Watch Anderson Cooper demonstrate neuroplasticity in action – how you can use your mind to change your brain – at the cellular level!

Summary

Watch Anderson Cooper demonstrate neuroplasticity in action – how you can use your mind to change your brain – at the cellular level!

A mindfulness practice changes your brain

 

Even healthy people repeat undesirable behavior. Many of us go through life on autopilot – just doing what comes naturally, despite the fact we keep hurting ourselves and others.

Neuroscientists tell us that the best way to ‘manage autopilot’ – the automatic parts of our brain – is to use our ‘wise’ minds. That is, we can apply a set of scientifically proven self-care strategies and skills to improve our lives.

One such self-care skill is mindfulness. Skills-based psychotherapy teaches you how to initiate and sustain this process over the long term. Watch how it works to change your brain – from autopilot to calm.

CBT changes your brain

If we have diabetes, we go to a specialist to learn how to ‘manage’ it – so it doesn’t manage us.

Just like physical illnesses, with the right kind of help, we can learn how to ‘manage our brains’ … for you-name-it brain chemistry problem.  Mental health is brain chemistry, which can be managed with our minds, using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).  There is plenty of evidence that CBT actually changes our brain chemistry:

Toward smarter selection of therapy for psychiatric disorders

Does cognitive behavioral therapy change the brain? A systematic review of neuroimaging in anxiety disorders.

How psychotherapy changes the brain – the contribution of functional neuroimaging

(Below are scans of brains with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, ADHD, as well as problems with Smoking, Alcohol, Obesity, & Cocaine.)  … 

OCD

“Current research into obsessive compulsive disorder focuses on a feedback loop involving three brain areas: the frontal lobe (prefrontal and frontal cortices), striatum and thalamus. The loop involves multiple circuits and signals that can stimulate or inhibit brain activity.”   See more about The OCD Loop: What may go wrong by Amy Ellis Nutt at the Washington Post.

 

How we change our brain - in minutes 4

 

How we change our brain - in minutes 3

In children with OCD, the brain’s arousal center, the anterior cingulate cortex, is ‘hijacked.’ This causes critical brain networks to stop working properly. Image adapted from Diwadkar VA, Burgess A, Hong E, Rix C, Arnold PD, Hanna GL, Rosenberg DR. Dysfunctional activation and brain network profiles in youth with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A focus on the dorsal anterior cingulate during working memory. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2015; 9: 1-11., CC BY-SA

How we change our brain - in minutes 2

 

More about recent treatments for OCD

Depression

How we change our brain - in minutes 5

 

ADHD

How we change our brain - in minutes 6

 

Pain

How we change our brain - in minutes 7

 

Behavior

How we change our brain - in minutes 8

 

 

 

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The Best on Stress & Stress ManagementThe Best on Stress & Stress Management

For 25 years, I’ve provided brief & time-limited, goal-directed & structured psychotherapies (with individual adults) that are scientifically proven to work.  The following are short descriptions of these therapies.

Summary

For 25 years, I’ve provided brief & time-limited, goal-directed & structured psychotherapies (with individual adults) that are scientifically proven to work.  The following are short descriptions of these therapies.

Please ‘share’ this post that I will continue to update with my ‘favorites’ related to stress and its management.

The Science on Stress

Stress, Portrait of a Killer

National Geographic showcases the best stress researchers. (Have patience with a few brief audio glitches)

Neuroscience Connections:  Emotion, Memory & Stress

If you’re interested to understand how a stressor (e.g., a move, a divorce, an unexpected car horn) gets under your skin and affects different people differently, then I highly recommend reading this blog post that spotlights Dr. Sternberg’s insights.

The Science on Stress Management

90:10 – The Single Most Important Thing YOU CAN DO For Your Stress

Watch this 10-minute video to learn how cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) applies to stress management. See more ‘healthy viral’ messages at Dr. Mike Evans’s Youtube Channel.

Coping with Stress:  Cognitive-Behavioral Stress Reduction

For a much more complete understanding of how we use CBT to manage stress, depression, and pessimism, I recommend  this excellent video (1 hour and 19 minutes) provided by Associate Professor Satterfield at the University of California, San Francisco.

Best Research on Preventing & REVERSING Stress-related Diseases

( I recommend subscribing to Dr. Ornish’s newsletter)

BEST Book (and program) on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

I recommend that you read the “Introduction to the Second Edition” of Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat Zinn  (free on Amazon, click on ‘Look Inside’ the book). You might also be interested in looking into MBSR classes in your zip code.

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Fibromyalgia & IBSFibromyalgia & IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is very commonly experienced by those with FM – due to their super sensitivity to pain. Here you will hear from experts on IBS as well as learn about self help method to take back lost parts of your life.

Summary

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is very commonly experienced by those with FM – due to their super sensitivity to pain. Here you will hear from experts on IBS as well as learn about self help method to take back lost parts of your life.

What is IBS?

IBS is a problem with the gut not working well. That’s why it’s called a functional disorder. There’s no tissue damage. So, having tests aren’t used to diagnose it. It’s like having a software (rather than a hardware) problem on a computer.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome 1Symptoms can include: chronic pain, gas, and bloating, diarrhea or constipation, … or both. People have a super sensitive stomach. It causes a great deal of stress … as well as being caused by stress (among other things).

For more details, I recommend listening to one of the best medical experts who also has a PhD in the new field of ‘Gut-Brain’ Gastroenterology. Dr. Geoff Hebbard answers questions in this Podcast: IBS and Functional Digestive Disorders related to:  differences between several GI diseases, belching, bloating, farting, gurgling, if constipation can be toxic, and much more.

How can CBT help?

Besides the physical distress of IBS, there’s the day-to-day stress of an unpredictable flare-up, the fear of not being close enough to a bathroom, or the embarrassment of an urgent exit. People can suffer an extraordinary loss in their quality of life, due to limiting or altogether avoiding enjoyable food, activities, and relationships.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for IBS is scientifically proven to help you take back the parts of your life that are lost. It’s a specific type of stress management, including 3 parts:

  1. Education about IBS and how stress relates to the intestinal tract
  2. Skill development for managing thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns that can improve ‘function’
  3. Gradual re-entry back into more desirable patterns – to take back your life.

CBT using self-help works

Fortunately, for those who prefer self-help to going to a therapist, there’s an unusual book that’s actually been tested and proven to help people with IBS. I recommend Dr. Hunt’s book, Reclaim Your Life From IBS. I believe this user says it best … as did 26 other people!

Irritable Bowel Syndrome 25 stars Very useful book, easy to understand and implement in life

June 13, 2016

Verified Purchaser
I have read a few other books to improve my IBS symptoms. Books containing new diet plans and meditation techniques are all very useful. But the insight into the real problem I gained after reading this book is extremely helpful to me.
This book clearly explains how mental condition is related to the gut problems. I was always aware of this connection but the idea was not this clear to me. Living in a professional world full of deadlines and job duties, puts lots of pressure on human body and intestinal problems such as IBS are just one way the body is alarming about the mental issues. This book focuses on this aspect and tries to provide simple but strong techniques to block the route from outside stress to the body and intestine.
The book is very easy to read, no technicality,,,so my recommendation as a person with IBS symptoms is give it a read,,I am sure you will find it very useful!
26 people found this helpful

What does CBT look like?

For those who prefer trying CBT with a therapist, Dr. Hunt has also demonstrated (with a person playing someone with IBS) a segment of a typical therapy session. This clip gives you an excellent idea of what to expect. Pay attention to how frankly they collaborate and discuss the patient’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as well as what the next step will be for the patient to try before her next visit.

Find a CBT therapist

Not all CBT therapists are trained to work with people with IBS. Be sure to ask therapists if this is one of their specialties. I recommend 3 different sources to search:

  1. The CBT Hub Directory (Glance at the Map to see if there are any in your area)
  2. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Directory
  3. The Academy of Cognitive Therapy Directory

Participate in a study?

If you are an IBS patient, Dr. Hunt at the University of Pennsylvania is currently enrolling people in her study. It’s goal: Test which works better …  Reclaim Your Life From IBS versus The Complete Low FODMAP Diet. Contact the study coordinator at ibsselfhelp@gmail.com for more information.

Hypnotherapy

Since the 1980’s, Dr. Peter Whorwell BSc MB BS MD PhD FRCP, Professor of Medicine & Gastroenterology at the University of Manchester has become known for studies showing that hypnotherapy for IBS is another highly effective psychological treatment. More recently, his study published in 2018 showed that group hypnotherapy was no less effective than individual hypnotherapy – a step in reducing the cost!

Listen to Dr. Jim Kantidakis’ Podcast with Dr. Whorwell about hypnotherapy.

Find certified hypnosis professionals near you using the The Society of Psychological Hypnosis website. They list the professional organizations which will have directories.

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Videos for 'wind down' time 1Videos for ‘wind down’ time

If you’re having trouble turning your mind off at bedtime … have a set of YouTube videos ready to watch … to gently remind yourself to focus on neutral, relaxing stimuli.

Summary

If you’re having trouble turning your mind off at bedtime … have a set of YouTube videos ready to watch … to gently remind yourself to focus on neutral, relaxing stimuli.

Try a Video

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxqIlaVBoH0

 

Relaxing Music

 

 

Ocean Tide and Music

 

 

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Headaches and BiofeedbackHeadaches and Biofeedback

Daily stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. It’s how you manage the stress that’s most important.

Summary

Daily stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. It’s how you manage the stress that’s most important.

Overview

Then during the nineties, when I was on the Clinical Faculty in Behavioral Medicine at Georgetown University, outpatients with all kinds of pain – head, back, stomach – came into the Biofeedback Lab I directed. I always thought how ironic it was. They rushed through traffic, hassled with parking, and stressed about being late – just to come in to relax.

Thankfully now, Biofeedback is entirely portable. In the quiet of your favorite place, you can teach yourself how to relax tension away and take control of your nervous system  – to access the relaxation response. So, you might want to look into something like the Stress Eraser (I don’t have any stock in their company). It’s a proven tool.

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Auto Draft 4My 2016 Favorite: “How Not to Die”

These videos, by the most important thought leaders of our day, share what’s proven to work to reverse (or prevent) cancer, heart disease, as well as the wear and tear of chronic stress.

Summary

These videos, by the most important thought leaders of our day, share what’s proven to work to reverse (or prevent) cancer, heart disease, as well as the wear and tear of chronic stress.

Videos

Dr. Greger, once again, hits it out of the park with his book (How Not to Die) … which he summarizes in this recent talk.

I recommend trying a weekly dose of Dr. Greger’s tasteful little videos (some are below) – which he sends for free in email.

Dr. Ornish’s landmark research on reversing diseases (cancer, heart disease) is explained in this clip of an award-winning documentary. Also, you can join Dr. Ornish’s community for free.

More of my favorites …

1.   Look at the power you can have with gizmos! We can be savvier consumers about these gizmos. Harvard experts suggest ‘what works’ to improve our sleep, diet, & exercise.

2.   For well-being, Dr. Hanson offers one simple idea to practice in each free e-newsletter called, Just One Thing.  He blends the latest brain science, positive psychology, and contemplative training.

3.   Here’s how we can ‘prepare’ to be our healthiest  …  how to create more demand for the best care  … and how to find providers who really get it – Lifestyle IS Medicine!

 And, my hope … 

Increasingly, healthcare is about making whole communities more healthy. I believe that we can use healthcare training as a vehicle to spread health to each community…. by engaging campuses in a little friendly competition – March Madness for Total Fitness.

As Dr. Ornish showed, both good health – and its delivery – is a team sport. It’s not just about personal diet and exercise. Maintaining fitness goals requires resilience to stick with it when we’re stressed. And often, a team of friends can help us more than if we’re alone.

Ideally, similar to Dr. Ornish’s clinical team, we can teach students in the allied health fields to lead fitness teams – not only for better campus health & well-being, but for their professional training. Because, in the 21st century, healthcare will be less about ‘sick’ care and more about wellness. That is, providers will get paid more if they keep their patients healthier! Who knows … maybe one day, you’ll be able to join a fitness team, in your locale, for your total health & well-being.  Stay tuned!

My 2016 Favorite: “How Not to Die”

 

More about Berries!!

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Auto Draft 5Learning to Manage Stress

Daily stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. It’s how you manage the stress that’s most important.

Summary

Daily stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. It’s how you manage the stress that’s most important.

The Stress Response

 

Learning to Manage Stress 2Using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), you will learn how to relax both your mind and body.

First, let’s think about how to relax your body.

When we’re upset – the stress response automatically kicks in (the sympathetic nervous system).

Daily stress creates wear & tear on all of us and can worsen  medical illnesses.  For that reason, we all need to learn to manage stress really well! We may not be able to stop stressful situations from happening … but, we can learn to manage our reaction to stress — in the moment.

The beauty of your body is that you can literally take control of your stress response (even in most stressful situations) by paying more attention to your breathing than to how stressed you feel!

The Relaxation Response

Learning to Manage Stress 3Learning to Manage Stress 4The first step is to be mindful in the moment that you’re feeling stressed! Watch a few great Mindfulness technique demonstrations here.

The next step is to learn how to reduce your stress response …. just by using a simple breathing technique.

If you breathe slowly (approximately 6.5 breathes per minute) and take a little more time on the exhale (4 seconds per inhale; 5 or 6 seconds per exhale), then you will turn on the ‘relaxation response’ (parasympathetic nervous system).

The below videos will teach and demonstrate for you exactly how to do that slow belly breathing. It takes a little practice … everyone can learn to do it in time!

How to Belly Breathe

Watch Dr. Carbonell demonstrate belly breathing

 

If you like apps, I recommend using the FREE Breath2Relax app … This video (which includes 4 short mini-videos) previews components of the app, which was developed by the Department of Defense.

 

Techniques (if your brain is too ‘busy’ to relax)

There are two science-based techniques that work really well, especially if you feel too antsy to just do the breathing:

  1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  2. Visual Imagery

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Below are two guided practices. The first is shorter, has a male voice, and shows you the muscle groups. The second is longer, has a female voice, calm music in the background. Get a sense of the kind of guide you prefer. Finally, take some time to make it your own exercise. Pick from a wide variety – now that you know what the basic elements are:

  1. Systematically switch from muscle tensing to relaxing
  2. Notice the deeper relaxation in each area by way of contrast from tension
  3. Rhythmically simplify instructions
  4. Notice the deeper relaxation upon exhaling – the exhale turns ON the relaxation response!

Shorter version (6 minutes)

Longer version (15 minutes)

Visual Imagery (a misnomer!)

Below are two guided practices: (1) a beach scene, and (2) a woods scene. It doesn’t matter where you take yourself (think of it like a mini-vacation in your mind). In fact, some people prefer sheer magical fantasy, like being in a Disneyland of their own.

It’s a misnomer because the important thing is to pay attention to using ALL your senses: see the sights, as you hear the sounds, as you touch the textures, as you smell the fragrances, as you savor the tastes.   The goal is to be IN the experience … rather than just see it. Fill it with your own personalized memories of pleasant feelings and smells and bring in anything that is calming to you, like a special warm loving hug.

Take some time to find your own preferred imagery … with some ideas from this variety of imagery videos.

Beach

Woods

Brief Grounding (calming) Techniques

Sometimes we feel way too keyed up to even begin a relaxation session (breathing, PMR, or visual imagery). Whenever you feel overly stressed (over a ‘5’ out of ’10’), it’s a good idea to try one of several very brief  behavioral techniques to bring yourself to a calmer state.  They’re called ‘grounding’ techniques because they’re simply meant to get you more in touch with feeling safe and secure – in the ‘here & now’ rather than thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

I recommend trying several, to find one that can become your go-to quick rescue.  These videos explain how to use your senses to get grounded right away, how to create your own safe place, how to count your breaths, and even how to use yawning to access a calmer state.

Best of all worlds, you will practice doing one of these daily so that you will be skillful … whenever you really need to pull this ‘relaxation’ skill out of your mental health toolkit – on your demand to calm yourself.

 

 

 

 

Calming Yourself (fast) from High Stress

Yes, there’s a proven technique to manage high stress fast. Dr. Ali Mattu explains/demonstrates this in his video. You can achieve the same response by putting a frozen washcloth on your forehead.

NOTE:  Don’t try this without consulting your physician first – especially if you have any type of heart disease!

 

Well-Being is a Skill

Modern neuroscience teaches that we can train our brains to have more well-being; it’s a skill to learn. Watch a thought-leader in the field of neuropsychology, Dr. Davidson, talk in Part I … about the science of well-being and in Part II … the 4 constituents of well-being, including the importance of practicing mindfulness.

 

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Smoking and Other Killer HabitsSmoking and Other Killer Habits

Daily stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. It’s how you manage the stress that’s most important.

Summary

Daily stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. It’s how you manage the stress that’s most important.

Overview

Smoking and Other Killer Habits 1

Many self-soothe in self-defeating ways – smoking, drinking, overusing prescriptions, overeating, not moving enough. If our brains get addicted, it’s difficult to stop.

By far, quitting smoking was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And so, I’ve helped test new ways to help people quit, as a clinical supervisor on Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center studies.

Most people don’t realize that it’s less about ‘willpower’ and more about being ‘ready enough’ to change. We can do ourselves more harm, if we try to change a habit and we’re not mostly ready.  Many times, when we fail, we get disappointed and lose confidence … and stop trying.

That’s the learned helplessness vicious cycle. Fortunately,  there are proven treatments to increase readiness – motivational skills – as well as to stick with it over the long term- relapse prevention skills. To change ANY habit, it’s essential to learn how to manage the conditions that trigger our own specific vicious cycles. And then, structure our environment to be MUCH more supportive of new, more ‘virtuous’ cycles.

It’s not rocket-science! Anyone can learn these skills … and be much better prepared to change. Those who seem to have more ‘willpower’ are probably using these skills – without knowing it.

 

 

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