Perfectionism and Certain Thought Patterns Predict Binge Eating

-Neil Petersen

Who is most at risk for engaging in binge eating, or compulsive overeating?

Two articles published in the January edition of the journal Eating Behaviors are shedding light on this question.

The first, by researchers from Canada, homes in on the link between binge eating and perfectionism. Previous research has suggested a connection between the two, but it hasn’t been clear which way the causation goes: does being perfectionistic make people more likely to binge eat, or do people become more perfectionistic in response to binge eating?

If the former sounds more plausible to you, you’re right!

The study, which followed 200 undergraduate women for a month, showed that having more perfectionistic concerns predisposes people to binge eating. However, the opposite is not true – binge eating does not increase people’s perfectionistic concerns.

This result indicates that perfectionism, and in particular “negative” perfectionism – being self-critical, obsessing over mistakes, etc. – can put people at risk for binge eating.

The second study published identified another factor that might make people more susceptible to compulsive overeating: certain patterns in the way people think about food.

One of these patterns has to do with what psychologists call desire thinking. Desire thinking is related to craving. As the name suggests, it involves thinking about and imagining something you want. It has been linked to addiction and compulsive behaviors.

In this case, the researchers found that desire thinking about food is related to binge eating. People who engage in more food desire thinking are more likely to engage in binge eating.

A second thought pattern, food thought suppression, also ups people’s risk. Once again, the name tells most of the story: food thought suppression means intentionally avoiding thoughts about food.

Together, these studies point to several ways people’s thought patterns and attitudes predict compulsive overeating. Some of the patterns that put people at risk (food desire thinking and food thought suppression) have to do with food specifically, while others (perfectionistic concerns) have to do with how people go through life more generally. In all cases, though, understanding these risk factors for binge eating should make it easier for professionals to recognize and treat binge eating.

My Toxic Relationship Recovery Resolutions

-Sharie Stines, PhD

Are you are in a toxic relationship and find yourself repeating the same old negative patterns over and over again? Do you find yourself feeling like you’re walking on eggshells when your toxic person is in your space? Or when thinking about this particular person do you find yourself feeling knots in your stomach. or tension in your neck?

If you can look at your toxic person as the drug you are addicted to, then the way to heal is to practice a program of recovery from the toxicity of this relationship.

The first step in breaking an addiction is to realize you are addicted, and the second step is abstention. With regards to your toxic relationship, learn to abstain in one of two ways:

(1) Abstain from the relationship completely (no contact); and/or

(2) Abstain from emotional entanglements that are unhealthy.

Following is a list of suggestions for great self-development resolutions.

  • I resolve to respect myself.
  • I resolve to trust my intuition.
  • I will no longer participate in “no win” conversations.
  • I will no longer participate in impossible situations.
  • If I feel bad around someone I will remove myself.
  • I will no longer make every decision a crisis.
  • I will live one day at a time.
  • I will learn to “reframe” negative experiences.  For example, if my toxic loved one chooses to give me the silent treatment, rather than feeling hurt, I will learn to enjoy the peace it brings me.
  • I will learn how to manage my emotions, rather than have them control me.
  • I will take my power back.
  • I resolve to believe in myself.
  • If I feel emotionally unstable, I will not call or reach out to my toxic loved one for support. Instead, I will call someone safe.
  • I will have compassion for myself.
  • I will honor and pay attention to my feelings.

To make your resolutions even simpler, just pick one and commit to focusing on it until it becomes a well-ingrained habit.  Just making one simple change, changes everything.  After you’ve mastered one of your resolutions, move on to incorporate another one; and so on.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Night

-Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

When we sit with ourselves, in silence, even for just a few minutes, we learn so much. Because how often, in a day, do you simply check in with yourself? How often do you sit in complete quiet and ponder how you’re feeling, how your day went, and what you need?

Below are ten questions that will help you do just that. Consider responding to these questions every night in your journal. Even ten minutes can be powerful. Ten minutes without any distractions. Ten minutes without a phone or the TV. Ten minutes without work or chores. Ten minutes of uninterrupted time to simply self-reflect. Ten minutes curled up on the couch. Or sitting at your desk with a candle. Or laying in bed with just your lamp on. Or sitting on the back porch staring at the sky. Ten minutes on your terms. For yourself.

  1. How do I feel about today?
  2. What did I learn (whether about myself or something else)?
  3. What did I really need today?
  4. Did I provide it?
  5. Where do I feel tension in my body?
  6. What was the predominant emotion I experienced today?
  7. What seems to underlie this emotion?
  8. Was I kind to myself today?
  9. If not, can I offer myself some compassion right now?
  10. What brought me joy, even if it’s a touch, a crumb, a speck of joy?

If these questions don’t resonate with you, write down your own list of ten or five or two questions that you think are important for you to consider every night. Because the key is to connect to yourself and to keep reconnecting every day. The key is to listen. Journaling is one way we can do that.

10 Ways to Beat Insomnia and Get Better Sleep

-Therese J. Borchard

Two-and-a-half years ago, I experienced a terrible case of insomnia. I took the sleeping drug Lunesta (eszopiclone), which afforded me a few wonderful nights’ sleep until I realized it substantially increased my anxiety during the day. Within a week on the drug, I became addicted, experiencing more and more withdrawal (anxiety) symptoms. Other sleep aids had the same effect — even over-the counter medications like Benadryl (diphenhydramine). So I was forced to figure out how to get my sleep back on track naturally.

I asked anyone I knew who had ever suffered from sleep problems for tips on catching some quality ZZZs, and spent lots of time researching ways to get some shut-eye without taking drugs. Although it felt like I was the only one awake at night, I certainly wasn’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-quarter of the U.S. population occasionally does not get enough sleep, while nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia. Sleep problems are associated with a number of chronic illnesses and, according to the CDC, are a real threat to our nation’s health.

For the last month I’ve been battling the beast of insomnia again — it’s common when you taper off of any medication — so I’m back to compiling techniques I’ve learned from other folks who lie awake at night.

Here are some natural remedies that have allowed them to get a better night’s sleep.

1. Herbal Teas

Many of my friends who suffer from sleep problems have benefitted from drinking different kinds of herbal teas an hour or two before they go to bed at night. You can make your own from dried herbs: Put a teaspoon of your mix into a tea ball or tea bag and add to hot water, or try some tea bags from a trusted boxed brand. You want to include or look for ingredients such as lavender, valerian, chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm, ashwagandha, holy basil, rosemary leaf, and dill seed. Some popular tea brands include Sleepytime, Yogi Tea (I like their Honey Lavender Stress Relief tea and Calming tea) and Traditional Medicinals (especially their organic Nighty Night tea and Cup of Calm tea).

2. Essential Oils

For nearly 6,000 years, essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes — sleep issues included. Several people in my online depression community use lavender oil to help them relax before bed and to help them sleep. They either apply a few drops to their temples before going to bed at night or spray a lavender mist on their pillow. I’ve used lavender oil myself for about a year now, and I do think it’s helpful. Other calming essential oils include valerian, vetiver, roman chamomile, and marjoram.

3. Meditation and Relaxation Tapes

A few years ago when my daughter couldn’t sleep, we would listen to calming meditations by Lori Lite designed for children. They were very effective in helping her to relax her body and mind enough to drift off to sleep. There are all kinds of sleep meditations and apps on the market today. Mashable published a good list awhile back. Personally, I like the meditations by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founding director of the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society in Worcester, as well as its stress reduction program.

Dr. Zinn’s voice soothes me more than any other meditation guide. A friend of mine swears by the meditations found on the free app CALM. Of course, you don’t need a guide to meditate. Sometimes just paying attention to your breath on your own — concentrating on your belly as it rises with each inhale and lowers with each exhale — or concentrating on a bodily sensation is a great way of calming yourself down.

4. Soothing Music and White Noise

Many of the apps listed above come with soothing music and white noise. Some nights, I’m not up for listening to instructions on how to relax each of my muscles or reminders to pay attention to my breath. I simply visualize myself lying by the ocean, listening to the waves on the shore, or I concentrate on my breath as I listen to nature sounds. So I have a few apps and soundtracks of just ocean waves and rain and water streams that are helpful for unwinding. Other people I know like to listen to soothing music, instrumental melodies, or simple white noise.

5. Cooler Temperatures

According to California-based clinical psychologist Arlene K. Unger, PhD, becoming overly heated is a common cause of sleeplessness. As one of the many helpful hints in her book Sleep: 50 Mindfulness and Relaxation Exercises for a Restful Night’s Sleep, she advises wearing lighter pajamas, keeping the window slightly open, and possibly ditching the heavy covers. I know people who sleep much better with a fan. The breeze and white noise create a conducive sleeping environment.

6. Melatonin and Other Natural Supplements

There are several natural supplements that can help relax the nervous system and assist sleep. The most common are melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and the amino acid l-theanine that’s typically found in teas. Valerian, GABA, kava, and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) are others. I’ve found the combination of magnesium and calcium to be effective at times. Some natural sleep aids that combine various supplements include Neuroscience’s Kavinace Ultra PM, Genestra’s Calm-gen, and Nature Made’s Sleep supplement.

7. Epsom Salts Baths

Taking an Epsom salts bath in the evening has been one of the more effective parts of my sleep hygiene routine. Epsom salts are a mineral compound containing magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. When used in a warm bath, they allow magnesium to be easily absorbed into the skin, which promotes a feeling of calm and relaxation.

According to a 2012 study in the journal Neuropharmacology, magnesium deficiencies induce anxiety, which is why the mineral is known as the original chill pill. I simply add two cups of the lavender-scented Epsom salts with added potassium and zinc to my bathwater. I then turn off the bathroom lights and use a lavender candle.

8. Prayer Beads and Mantras

You need not be a devout Catholic to use prayer beads: They’re employed in all of the world’s religions as part of meditative practices. The process of repeating a prayer or mantra over and over again while thumbing the beads can be very relaxing and soothing. Personally, I’ve slept with a rosary since I first experienced insomnia two years ago. The prayer beads have become my safety item, much like a child’s blankie, and give me comfort in the middle of the night when I wake.

9. Yoga

Any kind of yoga primes the parasympathetic system and promotes relaxation, taming the stress responses that cause insomnia. I’ve found hot yoga to be especially beneficial for sleep because, in addition to doing the healing postures, sweating releases stored toxins (so it’s very cleansing). Certain postures like these 19 listed in Yoga Journal are especially helpful for sleep. Doing them in the evening, or even when you wake at night, can soothe your central nervous system. Practicing Savasana (Corpse Pose) in particular before sleeping can promote deep rest, according to yoga instructors I know. There are also some apps you can download, like Yoga for Insomnia, that will help guide you through the postures.

10. Audiotapes and Free Lectures

Reading in periods of sleeplessness helps many folks I know doze off into slumber. But as a highly sensitive person, the light wakes me up. According to some Harvard research, all light-emitting e-books and screens negatively affect our sleep — even the Kindle. I therefore prefer to listen to audiotapes. Lately, I’ve been listening to the book Wherever You Go, There You Are by Kabat-Zinn. It’s a collection of small chapters about mindfulness that is effective at calming me down. Since audio books can be expensive, you might consider downloading university lectures, which are free content, from iTunes U — the section of Apple’s iTunes music store devoted to higher education.

6 Ways to Banish Anxiety and Speak Up In Meetings at Work

-Melody Wilding, LMSW

Another meeting is coming up at work, and you’re dreading it.

Like so many professionals — probably many more than you realize  —  it’s not a comfortable environment for you. Maybe you’re shy, introverted, or you genuinely enjoy listening to others’ ideas. Perhaps it’s important to you to show respect by deferring to the leaders at the table.

Situational factors can play a part, too. Certain co-workers may dominate the discussion, not allowing you to get a word in edgewise.

Whatever the case, sitting frozen through yet another meeting can be a terrible feeling. By now you might even take it for granted that feeling self-conscious in meetings is part of the job. You may wonder if it’s really worth all of the effort to speak up, especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you.

Elevating your visibility at work is essential if you want your career to evolve and grow. You work hard and have great ideas to contribute  — you should be making an impact and getting the recognition you deserve. If you want to get ahead, then it’s important that your voice is heard. It’s within your power to take control and ditch the habit of staying silent in favor of speaking up.

Here are some very simple strategies you can confidently implement at your very next meeting. With a little practice, you’ll finally feel like the integral team member you’ve always been.

1. Banish Pre-Meeting Jitters

Your hands are shaky. Your stomach is doing somersaults. You suddenly start second guessing if you spelled the client’s name correctly on the agenda. These are common pre-meeting anxieties. It’s normal to experience anticipatory stress when you feel as if your intelligence or contributions are being evaluated.

Instead of interpreting your jitters as a sign that you’re inadequate or otherwise not up to the task at hand, Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests befriending your stress response, reframing it as a sign you’re ready for action and prepared to bring your best to the (conference) table.

2. Ease Into It

It may be tempting to arrive right before a meeting starts to appear prompt or avoid awkward small talk. But if you feel rushed or short on time, this will only exacerbate the existing stress you already feel during meetings.

Instead, build in a buffer and plan to settle in before things get underway. Give yourself the opportunity to ease into the physical meeting space. If it’s a virtual teleconference, get comfortable with the webinar controls, your mic, and webcam ahead of time.

As colleagues arrive, focus on making conversation with one or two people at a time, which can feel both socially fulfilling and less overwhelming. You’ll also already have an “in” of sorts as the meeting begins and conversation turns towards agenda items. This can help ease anxiety and make speaking up for the duration of the session seamless.

3. Commit To Speaking Early

Have you ever come to a meeting with ideas and plan for what you want to say, then left realizing you said nothing the entire time? While you’re not alone, staying quiet is doing yourself a disservice. It typically gets more difficult to enter the conversation as a meeting progresses. The longer you wait, the more your anxiety will build.

Growth often comes from discomfort, so push yourself to speak up early. Set a simple strategy to say something in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the session–whether it’s to welcome attendees, present your main argument, ask a question, or offer an opinion on a new business proposal. It’s a surefire way to ensure you contribute.

4. Use Your Strengths When Speaking Up

You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. Even the soft-spoken can still make an impact by backing up a coworker’s comment with a simple, “Great idea! I can see that working really well.”

You can also focus on asking powerful questions. Especially if you consider yourself an introvert, you’re likely very observant, which gives you an edge when it comes to posing the kind of thought-provoking questions that haven’t crossed your colleagues’ minds quite yet.

Another way powerful way to increase your impact and visibility even after the meeting wraps is by following up with an email to your boss summarizing key points raised, or better yet, providing a proposal for a new project sparked by the conversation. You’ll build up a reputation as someone who makes useful contributions and you’ll come to everyone’s mind more quickly when promotion time comes around. More importantly, you’ll gain confidence in yourself.

5. Be The One To Take Action on “Next Steps”

Did something come up in the meeting that could use more research? Commit to taking on something for the next meeting. It shows you have initiative and that you’re interested and invested in your organization.

This is a great example of employing a pre-commitment device, a habit formation technique you can use to nudge yourself towards behaviors you desire. You’ve committed yourself — now you’ll be more motivated and likely to follow through.

6. Challenge Your Beliefs About Contributing

Many people’s leadership instincts may not have been nurtured to their full potential in childhood, and subconscious insecurities can seep into our behavior to this day when it comes to speaking up. So how do you overcome old, outdated scripts holding you back from feeling confident about speaking up? It requires a deep-dive into your presumptions about self-worth and speaking up.

Growing up, what were you told about standing out? Were you given the message by your parents, teachers, and community that you could be whatever you wanted, or did you internalize concepts such as, “People won’t like you if you try to stand out”? If you find yourself easily devastated by real or imagined negative feedback when you express your ideas, consider that you may be reverting back to an immature identity when your self-esteem was more contingent on other people’s (especially that of authority figures’) opinions.

When you have a point to make yet find undermining thoughts creeping in, thank your inner-critic for trying to do it’s job by keeping you protected. Fear can signal you’re saying something of significance. Seize the moment. Stop playing small. Remember, you’re part of your organization because you’re qualified, you’re effective, and you matter.

You’ve got a lot to offer — now it’s time to let everyone know it.

27 Signs of Superficial Relationships

-Mike Bundrant

Warning: This post is one person’s opinion about the signs of superficial relationships: An opinion piece made up by the author. It’s not clinical, scientific, or based on research. It’s opinion, informed only by experience.

There is nothing wrong with superficial relationships. Not every connection in life can be deep and emotionally engaging. Superficial relationships have their place.

Some relationships are superficial for practical purposes. You don’t spend enough time together – and don’t have the goal of going deeper.

Other superficial relationships leave you wanting something more because you have an expectation of something deeper and are not being satisfied. This is where it gets interesting.

Are you in superficial relationships that you wish were more substantive?

You’ll need to be the judge of that. This post mentions 27 signs of superficial relationships that might help to understand.

But first, why does it matter?

Well, if you’re genuinely wondering whether or not your relationship is superficial, and especially if you’re willing to read up on the topic, chances are that you are not a superficial person.

Being a deeper person, however, doesn’t protect you from superficial relationships. It takes two to tango. Your relationship might be as shallow and superficial as a relationship can get if both of you aren’t engaged at a deeper level.

A deeper person in superficial relationships may not be very happy. Of course, being “deep” doesn’t mean you are a healthy person. Yet, communicating with people who understand you on a deeper level is probably more fulfilling in general.

So, if you’re a deeper person in a superficial relationship…

You need to adjust your expectations if your partner is not capable of – or interested in – going deeper with you. Some people don’t want to go deep with you. Some people lack the ability to go deep with you. Others are capable of going deep, just not in the way you go deep – in your specific area of interest.

If you’re lucky, the person you’re with wants to go deeper with you and can do just that, in the area of interest that suits you. If this is the case, you don’t need to hang out in a superficial relationship.

Here are the promised 27 signs of superficial relationships:

  1. You don’t know what the other person wants out of life or is really interest in.
  2. You don’t understand how your life-values compare.
  3. You don’t know where you’re compatible vs. incompatible as people.
  4. You can’t or don’t put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  5. You don’t communicate feelings.
  6. There are lots of controlling/control issues in the relationship.
  7. You don’t think about what the other person needs from you.
  8. You don’t know what you need from the other person.
  9. You argue on a regular basis about trivial things.
  10. Your relationship centers around having fun (or just one thing).
  11. You gossip behind each other’s back.
  12. You don’t spend much time together.
  13. You’re not invested in each other’s goals or behavior.
  14. You fantasize about being with someone else, regularly.
  15. You lie to each other.
  16. You can’t disagree respectfully.
  17. You’ve never had a discussion about boundaries.
  18. Your sex is mechanical.
  19. Your sex is one-sided.
  20. Your sex life isn’t happening.
  21. You don’t talk about sex.
  22. You don’t know each other’s personal history.
  23. You avoid eye contact.
  24. You don’t touch each other.
  25. You don’t think about the other person when he or she is absent.
  26. You can’t connect about your life dreams.
  27. There is a lot of manipulation in the relationship.

As I mentioned, this is a non-scientific list. If one or more of the above is going on in your relationship, that does not automatically mean it’s superficial. However, in deep and deeply respectful relationships where both parties are recognized and independent and emotional beings, the items on this list would be less common, in my opinion. And, yes, I may have left out many commonly accepted signs of superficial relationships.

Remember, superficial relationships are not bad or wrong. And deeper relationships develop in stages, often years in the making.

5 Little Known Hallmarks of A Psychologically Healthy Person

-Jonice Webb, PhD

We all have a general idea of what we think a psychologically healthy person looks like. Maybe it’s not being depressed or anxious, not suffering, or not having a diagnosis.

Maybe it’s being happy, or simply able to live a good life.

All of these things are important and have great merit, of course. But what are the specific factors that make a person psychologically healthy? Here are some very important ones that hardly anyone thinks about.

The Five Hallmarks

1. Being able to hold two opposites in your mind at the same time. Is she a good person or a bad person? Did you like the movie or not? Are you talented, yes or no? Who’s right, you or me?” This tendency for our minds to polarize things into opposites in order to settle on a clear solution applies to all areas of our lives. But it shows up especially starkly in very personal questions, such as how we view ourselves, how we think about our childhoods, and how we judge others.

The ability to see the gray areas is a skill that not everyone has, for sure. But here we’re talking about a step beyond that. The ability to say during a conflict with another person, “We are both right, and we are also both wrong.” To be able to conclude, in any situation, “This is both extremely good and extremely bad,” “This person is both well-intentioned and extremely harmful,” “I love you and hate you at the same time.” “My parents gave me a lot, but they also failed me terribly.” All are true.

Opposites go together far better than most people realize. And if you can hold the opposing sides in your mind together at the same time, it gives you a birds-eye view of yourself, a person, or a situation that is far more accurate and real than grasping for a one-dimensional answer.

2. The ability to manage your feelings while communicating. Managing your emotions is one thing, and communicating is another. Each is a difficult skill to master. Put them together, and you have a great challenge. Being able to manage the anger or hurt you are feeling so that you can explain to someone how you feel; being able to manage your anger in order to express the problem in a way that the other person can hear. These are two examples of strong psychological health.

3. Self-awareness. Everyone knows themselves. But the question is, how well? Do you understand your typical responses to things? Are you aware of what you feel, and why you’re feeling it? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Talents? Likes and dislikes? What do you need, and what do you enjoy? The better you understand yourself, the more resilient you are in challenging situations, the better you can forgive yourself for mistakes, and the better life choices you can make for yourself.

4. Feeling comfortable in your own skin. This involves being happy to simply be you. Think of it as spending time with yourself, happily and comfortably. Can you sit alone with no entertainment and be comfortable? Can you be in the moment right now, and not thinking ahead, thinking about the past, or thinking about something or someone else? Are you able to sit with a feeling, accept that feeling, and try to understand it? These are all examples of being comfortable in your own skin.

5. Being willing to take risks. Being able to stretch yourself, not only within your comfort zone but beyond it, takes a great deal of strength and resilience. Are you willing to put yourself out there? Can you rely on yourself to manage a failure, if it happens? Do you know yourself well enough to know what’s worth going out on a limb for? Can you forgive yourself if you don’t succeed? The strength required to take the risk of failure, and to survive a failure, is a great strength indeed.

If reading all of these qualities is somewhat intimidating, don’t worry. Few people possess all five. In fact, most of us would do well to simply be striving toward having each one.

3 Ways to Build the 5 Hallmarks

  1. Become less invested in being right. When you give up some of your connection to being right, you open up a whole new world; the birds-eye world that is an important part of being wise. You rise above the right/wrong mentality, and you start to see yourself and others differently. Being able to see the polar opposites, the greater truths, makes it easier to understand your own feelings, (which often oppose each other) and to understand others. It aids your ability to see and understand yourself.
  2. Learn and practice mindfulness. Mindfulness, or the ability to be in the moment, with your attention turned inward at yourself, what you’re doing and — I would add — what you’re feeling, is a key part of both self-awareness and being comfortable in your own skin. It has also been shown by scientific research to have multiple other psychological and health benefits.
  3. Work on viewing failure differently. Failure is a sign of courage. Failure means that you pushed yourself outside your comfort zone and took a risk. Failure, done well, is a growth experience. We can learn more from our failures than we can from our successes. As you become more self-aware, more mindful, more emotionally communicative, and more comfortable in your own skin, you will be more free to take risks and learn from them. This will ultimately push you to experiences and successes far beyond what you ever thought you could achieve.

10 Areas of Self-Awareness You Should Understand

-Mike Bundrant

If you lack self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are won’t get very far.
~ Daniel Goleman

Why is self-awareness so vital? Because distressing emotions, limiting beliefs, and self-sabotage are a natural part of being born and growing up. If you aren’t self-aware, you cannot solve mental and emotional problems that can otherwise be resolved.

Lacking self-awareness, yet desiring inner peace, is like taking your broken-down car to a yogurt shop and expecting the staff to tell you what went wrong and then fix it. Nothing against yogurt shop staff:) They just aren’t trained as auto mechanics.

In this post, I’ll mention ten important areas of self-awareness, then refer you to a free online quiz that tests your level of self-awareness in each area.

FYI, the following self-awareness categories are of my own design, based on my 25 years working as a counselor and coach. These are not areas of clinical assessment or diagnostic in any way.

10 Areas of Self-Awareness You Should Understand

Self-awareness is taking an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.
~ Debbie Ford

1. Inner Self – Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic (VAK)

This is the seeing, hearing, and feeling model that comes from neuro-linguistic programming. The VAK model recognizes that we process information within, primarily through three of the five senses: seeing, hearing and feeling. Further, our processing is redundant. In other words, seeing an internal image will inspire feelings about the image and sounds either related to the image or our own inner commentary. Seeing, hearing and feeling all work together.

How self-aware are you of the inner images, sounds, and feelings in your mind and body? Most people have at least one area of the VAK model where they are not as strongly aware as others. Discovering where you are less aware can lead to an opportunity to expand your self-awareness.

2. Personal Paradigm: What’s Your Worldview?

A personal paradigm is a worldview. It typically answers questions about how life exists and why we’re here. Is there a God? Or not? Why are people on earth? What’s our nature: good, evil, spiritual, animal or what?  And so forth.

What’s your personal paradigm? Knowing where you stand in relation to these questions brings clarity to your life and informs your life purpose. Of course, it is not necessary to claim to know the objective truth about the universe in order to hold a personal paradigm, which consists of beliefs.

3. Personal Beliefs Related to Yourself

Personal beliefs are perspectives about what is true (for you). In the self-awareness test at the iNLP Center, we focus on your beliefs related to who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing in the world. Naturally, some of our self-related beliefs are positive and some are negative. We’re all a mixed bag. Still, your personal beliefs shape your world and often determine what you’re willing to do in life. This is an important area to explore.

4. Life Values: What is Most Important to You?

Life values are indications of what’s important to you in life. You can trust that a value is important to you (or congruent) when it successfully guides your choices and behavior. If health is important to you, then you will make healthy decisions. If success is important to you, then you’ll make decisions and spend your time in ways that lead to greater success.

Being aware of your life values is like having a reliable guide for every important decision. Making decisions in line with your values is a sure path toward fulfillment.

5. Inner Conflict: How Are You Divided?

Inner conflict may be universal. It can happen when our beliefs or values conflict with each other. For example, you may believe you are capable of healing your emotional issues. At the same time, you may harbor serious doubts. This is a sign of inner conflict.

You may also have values that conflict. You may value security because it helps you feel safe. At the same time, you may love freedom. These two values may lead to conflicting desires and difficult decisions.

Inner conflict is one of the more complex issues to diagnose, but when we’re aware, we can begin the internal negotiation process necessary to heal the divide. Self-awareness is the first step!

6. Stress and Negativity Triggers

Triggers are those things that automatically bring on a negative, frustrating state. A classic example is someone running their fingernails down a chalkboard (although chalkboards aren’t so common anymore:). This can automatically make you cringe.

Throughout each day, when you find yourself in a negative state, there is always a trigger – something (on the inside or outside) that prompted the bad emotional reaction. A particular tone of voice or seeing a specific object (dirty socks left on the floor) might trigger you, for example.

When you know your specific stress and negativity triggers, you can begin to deprogram them – to create a different response.

7. Inner Parents: How Are You a Reflection of Your Parents?

The influence of parents or primary caregivers is pervasive. Nobody leaves childhood without taking their parents with them in some form on the inside. Beliefs, values, behaviors and personal paradigms are all heavily influenced by parents during our formative years. How are you carrying your parental influence?

This may be a hard one to see or admit, especially if you’re resentful toward your parents. Who wants to know he acts like just his father when he hates his father? Still, this level of self-awareness will allow you to change how you act, which makes the most sense of all if you are resentful.

8. Personal Limitations or Abilities

We all have limitations. Some of these are self-imposed, usually due to limiting beliefs. Others are legitimate limitations to our intelligence and natural skills. For example, I know I do not have the intellectual capacity to formulate physics theories like Einstein. I know I can’t beat Roger Federer in tennis. In this case, the word can’t is not a negative term. It’s simply the truth about the limits of my skills or natural gifts.

Knowing your real-world limitations could be experienced as a huge relief. When you’re clear about what you can and can’t do, you no longer need to pretend otherwise or take on inappropriate commitments. Most of all, you can bring expectations of yourself in life with reality – another relief.

9. Self-Sabotage: How Do You Get in Your Own Way?

Getting in our own way is another universal tendency. Do you know why you sometimes sabotage your own success? And do you know how – or understand the intention behind doing so?

Self-sabotage may be the most perplexing issue of all. Why would anyone harm herself? Still, we all do in one way or another. Worse, self-sabotage is difficult to see because we tend to look outside ourselves and place blame instead of looking within for the cause of our angst.

Again, self-awareness is the solution. You’ve got to see a problem before you can take any proactive steps to resolve it.

10. Your Future: Got Goals?

Human beings are naturally goal-oriented. We move toward what we want. Consciously setting goals is one way to be intentional about your future. This section of the self-awareness test at the iNLP Center will help you learn where you stand in this area.

The Self-Awareness Test

The iNLP Center self-awareness test addresses the above ten areas of self-awareness. Again, this is not a clinical test – it’s a free, online quiz intended for educational purposes only. It’s a non-commercial, no-obligation exploration of self-awareness. No email address required. You will be forwarded to your results immediately.

Feeling Fat-Shamed Takes a Toll on Health

-Traci Pedersen

The pain of being the target of fat shaming may take a significant toll on one’s health, according to a new study led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The findings show that people with high levels of weight bias internalization are much more likely to develop cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Weight bias internalization occurs when people apply negative weight stereotypes to themselves — such as believing they are lazy or unattractive — and devalue themselves because of their weight.

“There is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health,” said Rebecca Pearl, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Psychology in Psychiatry.

“We are finding it has quite the opposite effect. When people feel shamed because of their weight, they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress. In this study, we identified a significant relationship between the internalization of weight bias and having a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which is a marker of poor health.”

For the study, the researchers examined 159 adults with obesity who were enrolled in a larger clinical trial testing the effects of a weight loss medication. Before any intervention was given, the participants completed baseline questionnaires measuring depression and weight bias internalization. A majority of the participants were African American women, a group typically underrepresented in weight bias research.

Participants were also given a medical exam to determine whether they had metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors — such as high triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference — which are linked to heart disease, type II diabetes, and other obesity-related health problems.

Initially, no link was found between weight bias internalization and metabolic syndrome when controlling for participant demographics, such as age, gender, and race. However, when patients were separated into two groups, “high” and “low” levels of weight bias internalization, those with high internalization were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome, and six times more likely to have high triglycerides as compared to participants with low internalization.

“Health care providers, the media, and the general public should be aware that blaming and shaming patients with obesity is not an effective tool for promoting weight loss, and it may in fact contribute to poor health if patients internalize these prejudicial messages,” said co-author Tom Wadden, Ph.D., a professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and director of Penn’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.

“Providers can play a critical role in decreasing this internalization by treating patients with respect, discussing weight with sensitivity and without judgment, and giving support and encouragement to patients who struggle with weight management — behaviors everyone should display when interacting with people with obesity.”

Previous research has shown that exposure to weight bias and stigma negatively affects mental and physical health, demonstrating that these experiences can lead to a physiological stress response such as increased inflammation and cortisol levels and can increase unhealthy habits such as overeating and avoiding physical activity.

Larger, longer-term studies are needed to explore which biological responses are responsible for putting a person with weight bias internalization at greater risk for cardio-metabolic disease.

“Disparagement of others due to their weight and messages that perpetuate blame and shame, if internalized, can cause harm to the physical and mental health of individuals with obesity,” added Pearl.

“As health care practitioners, we can help challenge negative, internalized stereotypes by educating patients about the complex biological and environmental factors that contribute to obesity, while providing concrete strategies to help patients manage their weight and improve their health.”

The findings are published in the journal Obesity.

Reading Books with Dad May Boost School Readiness, Parenting Skills

-Traci Pedersen

A parenting program in which fathers read to their preschoolers was found to boost the dads’ parenting skills while also improving the preschoolers’ school readiness and behavior, according to a new study led by New York University (NYU).

“Unlike earlier research, our study finds that it is possible to engage fathers from low-income communities in parenting interventions, which benefits both the fathers and their children,” said lead author Dr. Anil Chacko, associate professor of counseling psychology at NYU Steinhardt.

Fathers play a vital role in the social, emotional, and behavioral development of their children. However, few studies have focused on helping fathers improve their parenting skills — and, in turn, outcomes for their children — as most parenting research is conducted with mothers. Furthermore, previous research on parenting interventions for fathers have issues with high rates of fathers dropping out of the studies.

The new study evaluated the effects of the program called “Fathers Supporting Success in Preschoolers,” an intervention that focuses on integrating parent training with shared book reading to improve outcomes among fathers and their preschoolers.

Shared book reading is an interactive and dynamic activity in which an adult uses prompts and feedback to allow a child to become an active storyteller. It relies heavily on pictures and encourages parents to give their children praise and encouragement. Shared book reading fosters father-child interactions and also helps develop school readiness.

“Rather than a goal of increasing father involvement, which implies a deficit approach, a program that uses shared book reading targets a specific parenting skill set and represents a valued activity for parents and children,” said Chacko.

For the study, 126 low-income fathers and their preschool-aged children were recruited across three Head Start centers in New York City. The families, a majority of whom spoke Spanish, were randomly assigned to either participate in the eight-week program or were put on a waitlist (which acted as the control condition).

The short-term intervention included weekly sessions lasting 90 minutes each. In these sessions, small groups of dads watched videos showing fathers reading with children but with exaggerated errors.

The fathers then identified and, in small and large groups, discussed better approaches to these interactions. Fathers were then encouraged to practice the strategies they identified at home with their child during shared book reading.

The program was designed to help improve parenting strategies by establishing routines, encouraging child-centered time, using attention and incentives to promote good behavior, using distraction and ignoring to reduce attention-seeking behavior and resorting to time-outs sparingly.

The researchers then evaluated the program’s effects on parenting skills, child behavior and language, and outcomes for fathers, including stress and depression. The researchers measured these factors before and immediately after the program through direct observation, standardized assessments of language, and self-reported information. Attendance data was also collected as a measure of engagement.

The findings show that parenting behaviors, child behaviors, and language development of the children who participated in the program improved significantly compared to those on the wait-list.

In addition, fathers reported improved discipline approaches and promotion of their children’s psychological growth. The researchers also observed that fathers made fewer critical statements to their children and used more positive parenting behaviors like praise and affection.

The researchers also found a moderate effect on language outcomes among the children. Overall, the data suggest more than a 30 percent improvement in parenting and school readiness outcomes.

Importantly, the average attendance rate for the weekly sessions was 79 percent, which was substantially higher than past parenting programs for fathers.

“Unlike other parenting programs, fathers in this program were not recruited to work on parenting or reduce child behavior problems, but to learn — with other fathers — skills to support their children’s school readiness, which may remove stigma and support openness among fathers in supporting their children,” said Chacko. “The findings are particularly noteworthy given the study’s population of low-income, Spanish-speaking, immigrant fathers.”

The researchers added that shared book reading may not be the best approach for all fathers and children, so interventions should be tailored to the preferences of communities and parents in order to increase the chances of success.

“Ultimately, we believe that developing a program that is both focused on the parent and child, and one that is not deficit-driven or focused on improving problematic parenting but is focusing on skill development, would be appealing and engaging for fathers,” said Chacko.

The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.