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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Does focusing on the positive help your brain get over a breakup?



My new post on Psychology Today discusses fMRI studies about how the brain reacts to pictures and thoughts of the ex-partner.

Psychology Today post

One research study investigated whether an expressive writing intervention could help people to feel better about it. In this study of almost 100 college students with a recent (past 3 months) breakup, participants were assigned to write about either only the positive aspects of the breakup, only the negative aspects, or about a superficial topic (control group).  Those in the positive-writing group reported experiencing more positive emotions when they thought about the breakup and had no increase in negative emotions. The positive emotions included empowerment, happiness, relief, thankfulness, and wisdom.  If the breakup was mutual, the benefits of positive writing were even stronger. Perhaps focusing on the positive can eventually reprogram the brain's reactions. More research using actual brain scans is needed to verify this. Also, since these participants were college students, we don't know if older people would experience the same effects.





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Friday, April 8, 2011

How to live to be 100!


I have a new blog post on Psychology Today about the findings of The Longevity Project, a new book by Howard Friedman, PhD and Leslie Martin PhD summarizing the results of 80 years of data on how personality, stress, and social support predict good health and a longer life.
Based on these data, here are some things you can do to promote a long life:


1. Be conscientious and do a good job with the tasks you take on 

Conscientious people are well-respected in their communities, have happier marriages, and are more likely to be successful in their careers, according to these data. Having a sense of responsibility for people and organizations that you are connected with seems to pay off in better relationships and opportunities. To be able to do a good job, you may want to think carefully about the things you commit to. Make sure you have enough time to do a good job on all of them without getting resentful or burning yourself out. Sometimes it is better to say "no" to some things to leave more energy for the people and causes that are most important to you.

2.   Reach out to help many other people, not just your immediate family

By helping other people, you help to build community and also build  a reputation as a caring person who can be relied on. You can strengthen your relationships or build new relationships through helpful behaviors. This is particularly useful if you are new to a community. Volunteering for projects at your local school, place of worship, or charity, environmental group, or joining a service networking group, such as Rotary International can help you connect with other people who care.

3. Choose an exercise you can stick to and enjoy

People in the study who exercised when they were young, then gave it up did not live as long as those who stuck to their exercise routines into midlife and beyond. Vigorous exercise has the most immediate benefit, but if you can't keep it up, the effects won't last. Walking 30 minutes per day 5 days a week is a great low-stress way to improve your health and fitness and connect with nature and your neighbors.

4. Be satisfied with your chosen path and what you have achieved

If you choose a job that you're passionate about and work hard at it, you're more likely to be satisfied with the results after many years.  If you haven't lived up to your potential yet, you may want to consider hiring a career coach or psychologist to help you focus and address barriers to achievement. Some people have traits or habits that get in their way, such as being too controlling and aggressive, too passive and avoidant, or too impulsive and likely to act without thinking. Alcohol and drugs or dysfunctional relationships will also suck energy away from your career so these too, need to be addressed.

The good news is that people who did change and become more conscientious or connected over time still lived long lives. So for most people, it is never too late to walk a new path. You just need to find the courage to change.

LINKS 

My Psychology Today Blog Post
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201104/the-secret-longevity-its-about-character-not-just-calisthenics

The Longevity Project - Howard Friedman- home page
http://www.howardsfriedman.com/longevityproject/

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