10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

“Having an aim is the key to achieving your best.” – Henry J. Kaiser

It’s normal to wonder what you want to accomplish with your life. Sometimes such thoughts occur only intermittently, typically at milestone events such as high school graduation, entering college, getting a first job, meeting someone who becomes a romantic interest. Other times, though, you might dismiss any focus on future goals due to a more immediate concentration on what’s happening now. Still, life goals are important, for nothing worthwhile can be achieved without having a plan and working to succeed. These 10 tips on reaching your life goals may be helpful to do just that.

1. View goals as growth and aim high.

Having a goal is part of the growth process in becoming an adult. What’s often underappreciated, however, is what it takes to achieve those goals. It is more than merely thinking of the goal, working on it and then succeeding. One point that’s both straightforward and can make the achievement of even the loftiest goal a bit less formidable is to aim high. There can be immense satisfaction in knowing that the process of goal attainment helps you grow. Another crucial aspect of successfully achieving important life goals is to put into place specific plans to help you realize the goals.

2. Include stretch goals.

Why is aiming high recommended? For one thing, it always helps to have stretch goals. Like it sounds, a stretch goal is one that you know is beyond your current reach, yet it is highly desirable. A stretch goal will require you to put in a great deal of thought, time and effort to be successful. It’s not something easily attainable or a goal that you can do with barely any thought or effort. While some successes you have are accomplishments, most aren’t all that memorable. Stretch goals involve challenges, going beyond your comfort zone, entertaining the possibility that you may be in a little over your head – for now. On the other hand, when organizations set stretch goals for employees, it may serve to undermine organizational performance.

3. Always have several goals.

In line with regarding goals as growth is the recommendation to always maintain a list of several goals. These can consist of starter goals, which can be goals you’re just investigating or want to try to see if they hold your interest, intermediate goals, such as a stepped approach to landing a coveted career, or long-term goals that may include where you want to one day retire, how many children to have, whether a one-on-one relationship is what you want. The reason to have several goals is so that you always have something to work toward that you consider valuable and worthwhile. The more a goal interests you, even if it’s considerably far off, the more motivated you’ll be to put in the time and effort required to see it through.

4. Give careful consideration to goals when planning.

To be truly memorable, and worthy of intense concentration and effort, your goal should cause you to think long and hard about how to approach it, when, where and how to revise or adapt it to changing circumstances, and what to take away from it one you either succeed, stumble, or discard it. For there is always a lesson or two to learn. Those who are most successful in achieving their stretch goals are the ones who’ve taken the time to master the lessons they learned during mistakes.

5. Stagger goals.

When putting your goals into a list, make sure to include a rough timetable for completion. It’s also wise to space out more complex, difficult or time-consuming goals so that you’re not trying to work on more than one of these at once. That’s scattering your focus and depleting your physical, emotional and psychological resources. Besides, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Sure, you can chip away at some of the easier goals to get some successes to your credit, while still putting in appropriate time, effort and attention before or after the no-brainer goals working on your high-value goals.

6. Be realistic, yet adventurous in goal-setting.

Does aiming high include taking risks? You bet. When a goal is stimulating, gets you excited and eager to begin, it’s also likely to contain an element of risk. You might not achieve it, at least not at first try. On the other hand, the journey toward life goal completion is an adventure, as it should be. Do be realistic about the goals you set, while still seeing yourself successful in some seemingly unattainable goals you’d like to master. Besides, research shows that goals that retain your interest can both improve your work and help reduce burnout.

7. Take note of past goal successes.

No matter what your goal, you’ve likely had some experience already in something similar. If not in totality, at least directionally, by aspiration, training, skill or talent. Such successes are the reservoir you can draw from for inspiration, motivation, and lessons learned. They can and will serve you well in any goal you want to pursue in life. You succeeded because you had a plan, persevered despite obstacles, found the lesson in mistakes, and were flexible enough to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

8. Be flexible in goal implementation and be sure to monitor progress.

Recognizing that you might not fully realize a goal the first time you attempt it, keep in mind that flexibility in how you proceed with goals is crucial to ultimate success. What appears to be a rock solid plan may turn out to be less than ideal. Revision is not only advisable, but necessary. If you’re locked in and refuse to adapt and adjust, you will not only increase your frustration and stress, but you’re also much more likely to abandon the goal altogether. It’s also good strategy to monitor your progress toward goal achievement, as such regular check-ups increase both motivation and likelihood of success.

9. Allow room for error.

You can’t know everything, nor can you anticipate every possible circumstance before working on your goals. Succeeding in important life goals involves acknowledging, allowing and even accepting that you’ll make errors, mistakes, fall short on some aspects, perhaps undershoot the mark. Seniors with cognitive impairment may find themselves making more errors and mistakes than they did when younger, yet they’re still able to work toward life goals and gain a measure of fulfillment from both the pursuit and completion of goals they deem worthwhile. Practice patience, both if you are older and have trouble with concentration, focus and follow-through, or if you are the adult child, sibling, co-worker, friend or neighbor of someone who’s having a tough time succeeding with their goals.

10. Recognize some goals may feel uncomfortable — and that’s good.

Perhaps the best advice on reaching your life goals is to go for goals that are a little disconcerting. That is, they give you a twinge of uncertainty, even feel a bit uncomfortable. Why is that good? You want to strive to achieve goals that are yet beyond your reach. If they’re too easy, or too quickly achieved, you may not gain as much satisfaction, wisdom or advancement from their completion. That’s not to say that quickly-accomplished goals shouldn’t be on your list, just that the ones you really need to work for may be more meaningful to your life goals.

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Bigger Brains Expand Thinking Regions, But At A Cost

VIDEO: Big Brain Perks & Costs Dr. Armin Raznahan, NIMH Developmental Neurogenomics Unit 

A new study has discovered that the bigger the brain, the more its additional area is accounted for by growth in thinking areas of the cortex or outer mantle, at the expense of relatively slower growth in lower order emotional, sensory, and motor areas.

This mirrors the pattern of brain changes seen in evolution and individual development, with higher-order areas showing greatest expansion, say researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Researchers also found evidence linking the high-expanding regions to higher connectivity between neurons and higher energy consumption.

“Just as different parts are required to scale-up a garden shed to the size of a mansion, it seems that big primate brains have to be built to different proportions,” explained Armin Raznahan, M.D., Ph.D., of the NIMH Intramural Research Program (IRP).

“An extra investment has to be made in the part that integrates information, but that’s not to say that it’s better to have a bigger brain. Our findings speak more to the different organizational needs of larger vs. smaller brains.”

For the study, NIMH researchers, along with colleagues at more than six collaborating research centers, analyzed magnetic resonance imaging brain scans of more than 3,000 people from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort and the Human Connectome Project.

Cortex areas showing relatively more expansion in larger brains sit at the top of a network hierarchy and are specialized functionally, microstructurally and molecularly at integrating information from lower order systems, according to researchers.

Since this theme holds up across evolution, development and inter-individual variation, it appears to be a deeply ingrained biological signature, Raznahan suggested.

“Not all cortex regions are created equal. The high-expanding regions seem to exact a higher biological cost,” he said. “There’s biological ‘money’ being spent to grow that extra tissue. These regions seem to be greedier in consuming energy. They use relatively more oxygenated blood than low-expanding regions. Gene expression related to energy metabolism is also higher in these regions.

“It’s expensive, and nature is unlikely to spend unless it’s getting a return on its investment.”

Since people with certain mental disorders show alterations in brain size related to genetic influences, the new cortex maps may improve understanding of altered brain organization in disorders, the researchers note.

The higher expanding regions are also implicated across diverse neurodevelopmental disorders, so the new insights may hold clues to understanding how genetic and environmental changes can impact higher mental functions, researchers add.

“Our study shows there are consistent organizational changes between large brains and small brains,” said Raznahan. “Observing that the brain needs to consistently configure itself differently as a function of its size is important for understanding how the brain functions in health and disease states.”

The study was published in Science.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

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Only 20 Percent of Youth Treated for Anxiety Stay Well

Only 20 percent of young people diagnosed with anxiety will stay well over the long term, despite evidence-based treatment, according to a new study.

“When you see so few kids stay non-symptomatic after receiving the best treatments we have, that’s discouraging,” said University of Connecticut psychologist Dr. Golda Ginsburg.

The study followed 319 young people aged 10 to 25 who had been diagnosed with separation, social or general anxiety disorders at sites in California, North Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

They received evidence-based treatment with either sertraline (the generic form of Zoloft) or cognitive-behavioral therapy or a combination of these two.

They also had follow-ups with the researchers every year for four years. The follow-ups assessed anxiety levels, but did not provide treatment.

Other studies have done a single follow-up at one, two, five, or 10 years out, but those were essentially snapshots in time, the researcher notes. This is the first study to reassess youth treated for anxiety every year for four years, she added.

The sequential follow-ups meant that the researchers could identify people who relapsed, recovered, and relapsed again, as well as people who stayed anxious and people who stayed well.

The study found that 20 percent of patients got well after treatment and stayed well, rating low on anxiety at each follow-up.

But about half the patients relapsed at least once, and 30 percent were chronically anxious, meeting the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder at every follow-up, according to the study’s findings.

Females were more likely to be chronically ill than males. Other predictors of chronic illness were experiencing more negative life events, having poor family communication, and having a diagnosis of social phobia.

On the bright side, the study found that young people who responded to treatment were more likely to stay well. The study also found no difference in long-term outcomes between treatment types. This means that if there is no cognitive-behavioral therapist nearby, treatment with medication is just as likely to be effective, according to the researchers.

The study also found that kids did better if their families were supportive and had positive communication styles.

Ginsburg offers advice for getting the best help for your child: Talk to your child and to the therapist, and ask questions. Why do you suggest this treatment? Has the therapist been trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy? How can we reinforce what you learned in therapy this week?

She adds that parents and their kids should be aware that a single intervention may not be enough.

“If we can get them well, how do we keep them well?” Ginsburg said. “We need a different model for mental health, one that includes regular checkups.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Source: University of Connecticut

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Post-Divorce Health May Suffer from Smoking, Less Physical Activity

Emerging research finds that divorce may impact physical and emotional health. A new study by the University of Arizona suggest two possible culprits for poor health after divorce: a greater likelihood of smoking and lower levels of physical activity.

“We were trying to fill in the gap of evidence linking marital status and early mortality,” said UA psychology doctoral student Kyle Bourassa, lead author of the study, which is published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

“We know marital status is associated with both psychological and physical health, and one route from divorce to health risk is through health behaviors, like smoking and exercise. We also know that health behaviors are often linked to psychological variables, like life satisfaction.”

Bourassa and his UA colleagues Drs. David Sbarra and John Ruiz reviewed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, a long-term health study of adults over age 50 living in Great Britain. The study includes seven waves of data, collected from participants every two years beginning in 2002.

The researchers analyzed information collected from 5,786 study participants, 926 of whom were divorced or separated and had not remarried, and the rest of whom were married. They looked at participants’ self-reported life satisfaction, exercise frequency and smoking status, as well as measurements of participants’ lung function and levels of inflammation.

They also kept track of who passed away during the study period, finding that participants who were divorced or separated had a 46 percent greater risk of dying during the study than their still-married counterparts.

As to why that might be, Bourassa and his co-authors found that divorced or separated participants, especially women, reported lower life satisfaction than married participants. Lower life satisfaction, in turn, predicted lower levels of physical activity, which is linked to greater risk for early death.

Divorced participants also were more likely than married participants to smoke and, as a result, had poorer lung function, which predicted early mortality.

The researchers controlled for variables like gender, self-reported health, age and socioeconomic status.

Although the study didn’t explicitly examine why divorce seems to be associated with greater likelihood of smoking and lower levels of exercise, the researchers propose a possible determinant. Divorced individuals no longer have spouses holding them accountable for their health behaviors, Bourassa said.

“Partner control of health might play a role,” he said. “If you imagine a husband or wife who doesn’t smoke and their partner does, one might try to influence the other’s behavior. In many ways, when relationships end, we lose that important social control of our health behaviors.”

Future research should consider the roles of other health behaviors, like diet and alcohol consumption, as well as other marital statuses, such as widowed or remarried adults, Bourassa said.

In addition, studies might look at the effects of changes in behavior — for example, quitting smoking or starting smoking for the first time — which is something the current study did not consider, he said.

The investigators explain that more study is needed to know if the findings regarding smoking and exercise for aging adults after divorce are generalizable to younger divorced populations, too.

Moreover, it is important to note that divorce doesn’t always lead to negative health outcomes. Quality of life, for example, can significantly improve for individuals who have ended unhealthy relationships.

Still, since divorce overall continues to be linked to poorer health, knowing that smoking and exercise may be part of the explanation could help inform interventions for those who’ve gone through a separation, Bourassa said.

“This is a subgroup of people that are at greater risk for these poorer health behaviors, so the goal might be to target them for interventions to hopefully improve their long-term health,” he said.

“We have interventions for people who smoke, and we have interventions for people who don’t get enough exercise, so if we know someone who is divorced, maybe we should ask, ‘Are you smoking? Are you getting enough physical activity?’” he said.

“Finding that life satisfaction seems to link divorce to physical activity levels also suggests that interventions to improve people’s life satisfaction and psychological well-being could translate downstream to physical health improvements.”

Source: University of Arizona/EurekAlert

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Faster Walking Pace Tied to Longer Life

A faster walking pace may be linked to a longer life, according to a new international study led by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia. The protective effects of a faster walking pace were found to be more pronounced in older age groups.

The findings, published in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, show that an average walking pace is tied to a 20 percent risk reduction for all-cause mortality compared to a slow walking pace. But even better, walking at a brisk or fast pace (around 3.1 to 4.3 miles per hour) is associated with a risk reduction of 24 percent.

Risk for cardiovascular disease mortality is reduced by 24 percent for individuals who walk at an average pace and 21 percent for those who walk at a brisk or fast pace, compared to those who walk slowly.

Among those 60 years and older, an average walking pace is associated with a 46 percent reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes. Among fast walkers, this jumps to a 53 percent reduction.

“A fast pace is generally five to seven kilometres per hour, but it really depends on a walker’s fitness levels; an alternative indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when sustained,” said lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health.

The study was a collaboration between the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health, the University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Limerick and the University of Ulster. The researchers sought to determine the associations between walking pace with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.

After comparing death records with the results of 11 population-based surveys in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008 — in which participants self-reported their walking pace — the researchers adjusted for factors such as total amount and intensity of all physical activity taken, age, sex and body mass index.

“Walking pace is associated with all-cause mortality risk, but its specific role — independent from the total physical activity a person undertakes — has received little attention until now,” said Stamatakis.

“While sex and body mass index did not appear to influence outcomes, walking at an average or fast pace was associated with a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. There was no evidence to suggest pace had a significant influence on cancer mortality, however.”

In light of the findings, the researchers are calling for walking pace to be emphasized in public health messages.

“Separating the effect of one specific aspect of physical activity and understanding its potentially causal association with risk of premature death is complex,” said Stamatakis.

“Assuming our results reflect cause and effect, these analyses suggest that increasing walking pace may be a straightforward way for people to improve heart health and risk for premature mortality — providing a simple message for public health campaigns to promote.

“Especially in situations when walking more isn’t possible due to time pressures or a less walking-friendly environment, walking faster may be a good option to get the heart rate up — one that most people can easily incorporate into their lives.”

Source: University of Sydney


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Leave Room for Wisdom in Your Intelligent Life

“Intelligence” is all the rage. Students take standardized tests throughout school to measure intelligence, and we build machines powered by artificial intelligence to help us do our jobs. We seem to value intelligence above all else.

This is understandable. After all, “intelligence” in both of those examples is measurable and actionable, and it appears to provide a certain amount of clarity. However, “intelligence” in this sense is not necessarily a prerequisite for success. As psychologist Angela Duckworth points out, all that intelligence tests demonstrate is performance on intelligence tests — they do not reflect fundamental intelligence.

In 1982, psychologist Dr. Vivian Clayton defined intelligence as “the ability to think logically” and to “conceptualize and abstract from reality.” Wisdom, on the other hand, she defined as “the ability to grasp human nature, which is paradoxical, contradictory, and subject to continual change.”

In short, Clayton’s distinction between the two is that intelligence is the understanding of how to do things, whereas wisdom requires understanding that a logical stepwise process rarely works in life without constant iteration. In this age of life hacks and intelligent platforms, we’ve become obsessed with mechanistic thinking — figuring out the best way to do things — but in the course of doing this, we have become blind to the potential of wisdom.

Finding Wisdom’s Worth

Intelligence by itself has mostly unobservable and latent characteristics — it’s useless without context. An “intelligent” system, after all, is only as intelligent as the data it’s processing. Feed an intelligent data processor nonsense, and you will get nonsense out of it, albeit logical nonsense. Also, intelligence doesn’t always account for which factors actually matter. We have to use our intuition and iteration to find solutions to our challenges, so “intelligence” often comes to mean little more than rule-following, and rules by themselves do not always advance our progress or add value.

For example, a friend was recently traveling on an international flight. He was one minute late for checking luggage, and due to the airline’s rules, he had to miss his flight. Outside of context, these rules seem helpful — intelligent, even. You can’t have people checking in late and delaying flights all the time, and rushing them through the ticketing and security process would be a safety hazard. But in this instance, the airline lost a loyal customer.

Intelligent rules are not always wise rules, and the airline industry has suffered because of it. Between 2000 and 2012, prompted by consumer frustration with flying, the passenger rail market between New York and Washington increased by 38 percent, and the rail market between New York and Boston increased by 34 percent. Of course, security is paramount, but airline rules are often random, unexamined, and disconnected from what makes sense. Thus, they are often unwise.

Despite the efficiency and productivity that intelligence promises, it is wisdom that leads us into real fulfillment. In 2013, behavioral scientist Igor Grossmann and his colleagues found that there is no correlation between intelligence and well-being; wise reasoning, on the other hand, correlates with greater life satisfaction, better social relationships, more positive words used in speech, less depressive rumination, and greater longevity. Because wisdom contains a number of complex variables, including prosocial attitudes and emotional balance, it’s also associated with a delicate balance in the brain concerning our emotions. Wisdom is what dampens an emotional response when it’s excessive and, through self-awareness, exerts self-control.

The regions of the brain responsible for wisdom overlap with the regions responsible for intelligence, but there are some differences. Wisdom activates brain regions involved in the practical application of knowledge and regions that promote social good. It also involves the integration of emotion and knowledge. Essentially, wisdom adds the context that intelligence needs in order to be useful.

3 Ways to Apply Wisdom to Your Life

If you want to live with greater well-being and have practical and integrated solutions for life’s challenges, make room for more wisdom in your life, not just more intelligence. To ensure you’re making wise decisions, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is my problem created by something other than itself?
    For example, if you are looking for a life partner and have no intention of moving from your hometown, you probably want to date people who have similar geographic plans. Make sure you’re comparing potential solutions with their ramifications in real life.
  2. How does my goal relate to doing social good?
    When thinking about this, make sure you’re not simply doing something because you think people will recognize your virtue. Instead, try to deeply understand how your own passions relate to social good. There’s no need to force it. Authenticity matters.
  3. Do I really care? 
    If you’re conflicted about your choices, examine those feelings. Learning how to acknowledge the pros and cons of your life choices can make you more wise, and you can integrate that wisdom into your plan moving forward. Having no strong emotions is a signal that you have not connected with your path forward, and having paradoxical feelings, while wise, should be distinguished from internal conflicts that can be resolved.

The decisions that lead to happiness aren’t just the smart decisions; they are the wise decisions, or what we commonly call “good decisions.” Having a psychological strategy that is practical, socially relevant, and authentic will make sure you’re activating your own wisdom more successfully.

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Cognitive Training May Improve Depression, Brain Health After Brain Injury

A new study reveals that certain cognitive training exercises can help lower depression and improve brain health after a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The findings show that, after cognitive training, TBI patients experience significant reductions in the severity of depressive symptoms, increased ability to manage emotions, improvements in cortical thickness and recovery from abnormal neural network connectivity.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report brain change associated with reduced depression symptoms after cognitive training,” said lead author Dr. Kihwan Han, a research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. Han works in the lab of Dr. Daniel Krawczyk.

“Overall, these findings suggest that cognitive training can reduce depressive symptoms in patients with traumatic brain injury even when the training does not directly target psychiatric symptoms.”

Previous research using the same procedure showed cognitive gains as well as similar changes in cortical thickness and neural network connectivity.

The new study involved 79 participants with chronic TBI who all were at least six months post-injury. The volunteers were randomly assigned into one of two groups: strategy-based training, which used the Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) program developed at the center; and information-based training, which used the Brain Health Workshop program. Researchers used the Beck Depressive Inventory to classify 53 of the participants as depressed.

The individuals’ depressive-symptom severity, psychological functioning scores and data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans were collected three times: before training, after training and three months post-training. Scans were used to study changes in brain structure and neural network connectivity.

Both treatment programs involved 12 90-minute sessions for an eight-week period. The sessions included quizzes, homework assignments and projects conducted in small group settings involving social interactions.

All of the depressed participants showed significantly reduced depressive symptoms associated with improvements in cognitive and daily life functioning. According to Han, the social engagements, cognitive stimulation from new learning opportunities and hope of improvement afforded by both programs may help explain the reductions in depressive symptoms.

Due to the observed brain change patterns, Han also suggests that the improvements in emotion regulation may be associated with the reduced depressive symptoms. Over time, the improvements in depression were shown to correlate with greater cortical thickness within the prefrontal cortex — a region of the brain responsible for executive functions needed for emotional control — as well as reductions in abnormally high neural connectivity within this region.

“Identifying what changes are happening in the brain when interventions successfully reduce depressive symptoms could allow us to create more effective, pharmaceutical-free approaches to help alleviate depression in people who experience chronic traumatic brain injury symptoms,” said study author Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Professor.

The findings are published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.

Source: Center for BrainHealth

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Best of Our Blogs: June 1, 2018

Have you ever felt completely drained and overwhelmed?

Maybe it’s work or your relationships. Maybe you’re finding it impossible to juggle family and your professional life, let alone a social life.

You realize that as each ball drops, you’re not even enjoying any of it. It’s like one obstacle after another without any respite.

If you’re feeling the burn of burn out, you’re not alone. In fact, one study found 54 percent of survey respondents were stressed in 2017.

What’s the cure?

Slowing down. Single-tasking. Simplifying. Silence. Taking a breath and filtering out the important stuff from the things you think are important.

As you’ll read this week, sometimes discovering what relationships, and even TV shows may be worth ending can reconnect you to what truly matters in your life.

Accepting Death
(Polishing the Fragments) – A personal story of death offers an opportunity to invite presence, acceptance, and meaning in all of our lives.

13 Reasons to Move On
(Sex, Text & What’s Next) – Are gore, horror and violence necessary ingredients to capture a young audience? Does it open the door to conversations or desensitize us more?

Here’s What Happens When You Tell Narcissists They’re Narcissists Revisited
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – Should you tell a narcissist they’re a narcissist? Read this first.

How to Help Someone with Anxiety (According to Mental Health Experts)
(Reaching Life Goals) – Here’s why addressing your loved one’s anxiety with rational discussion will be unproductive and what you should do instead.

13 Double Standards Emotional Abusers and Controllers Exhibit in Relationships
(Love Matters) – If you feel anxious, hopeless and trapped in the presence of your partner, you might be a victim of emotional abuse.

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Portable Eye-Testing Device May Help Diagnose Schizophrenia

Research has shown that people with schizophrenia exhibit abnormal electrical activity in the retina. Now a new study finds that a portable device commonly used in optometrists’ offices could allow for a faster diagnosis of the disease, predict relapse and assess symptom severity and treatment effectiveness.

The findings are published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

For the study, researchers at Rutgers University used RETeval, a hand-held device developed to record electrical activity from the retina, to replicate and add to previous studies showing that schizophrenia patients have abnormal electrical activity in this area.

The study, which is the first time a portable device has been used for these tests, reveals that the device can accurately identify reduced electrical activity in multiple cell layers in the retina of schizophrenia participants, including in cell types that had not been studied before in this disorder.

“Schizophrenia is a devastating disorder, probably the most disabling disorder long term. Although we know quite a bit about it, it’s still not that well understood,” said Steven Silverstein, professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and director of research at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC), who designed the study.

“Our study should help generate further research into developing a test that clinicians — like psychologists, psychiatrists or nurses — can use in their offices to diagnose, treat and monitor the condition of people with schizophrenia.”

Focusing on eye biomarkers as a way to understand psychiatric disorders is a new field of study.

“Since the retina is part of the nervous system, what is happening in the retina is likely reflective of what is occurring in the brain,” Silverstein said. “For example, we know that certain changes in the retina, like thinning tissue [due to cell loss] or weakening electrical activity, occur alongside loss of brain tissue and reduced brain activity in patients with neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. We and other researchers are now investigating whether retinal changes are related to brain structure and function changes in schizophrenia.”

The researchers evaluated 50 participants: 25 with schizophrenia and 25 with no diagnosed psychiatric disorder. During the test, the participants closed one eye and placed the other against the RETeval device, which flashed 10 to 20 white or colored lights of various intensity against a white or colored background.

A tiny electrode was placed on the skin under the eye to record the retina’s electrical activity. The participants underwent the test in both normal lighting and again after sitting in the dark for 10 minutes in order to evaluate activity in different types of retinal cells. Most individual tests were completed within two minutes.

“Since many of our participants were experiencing severe psychiatric symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, we wanted to use a test that was as noninvasive and quick as possible,” Silverstein said.

“While the portable device clearly distinguished people with schizophrenia from those without a psychiatric diagnosis, it’s too soon to call this a diagnostic tool,” said lead author Docia Demmin, a graduate assistant in UBHC’s Division of Schizophrenia Research and a doctoral student in Rutgers Department of Psychology.

“However, since every prior study has found that people with schizophrenia exhibit reduced retinal wave forms and slowed retinal responses, our research shows that we closing in on an accurate test that is faster, less invasive, inexpensive and more accessible to patients.”

Source: Rutgers University

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Why Being Guarded Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

They say the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So, when someone says you’re too “guarded” when it comes to letting new people in, it’s kind of hard to believe that it could be true — especially if you’ve been burned before. And while it’s safe to say that to have a full, meaningful relationship you have to open yourself up eventually, it’s also okay (and even wise) to proceed with caution. Let’s face it, building a wall around yourself isn’t always a bad thing.

Look, a guarded heart is a heart punched so many times, it eventually hardens and rarely softens. Those with guarded hearts understand the difficulty in balancing trust and emotions. We don’t want to be cold, yet we don’t want to be taken advantage of either. Having to protect our hearts might as well be a full-time job. Let’s look at some of the reasons having a guarded heart isn’t always such a bad thing, and remember, it’s okay to be you!

You understand that not everyone’s intentions are pure.

Not everyone is on the same level as you. You’re not crazy; there are people who would hurt you and not feel bad about it. Your job is to try and to figure out who those people are before you’ve got three kids, a marriage, and a minivan.

You accept that you don’t have to let EVERYONE in.

Being a completely open book with everyone who shows you a little attention can cause a lot of unnecessary drama. Use your judgement and be discerning of who you let in and you can save yourself a whole lot of headaches. Sometimes, you have to be guarded. It’s just necessary.

Love gurus everywhere will tell you to take a shot at love, to open up, and let someone in, but that’s insanity. It’s a one-way ticket to winding up married to some fool who sucks.

You are discriminating about who your friends are.

As you scroll through your newsfeed you see — mostly girls — post pictures captioned “My Bestie” or “Best friends forever” after just knowing a person for a week or even days. Now, personally, I feel that is ridiculous. What do you know about a person after a few days of hanging out? These friendships that start so great and so quickly usually end shortly.

Don’t get me wrong, some people meet someone and automatically become best friends and it works out. But for guarded hearts, this never happens. If we consider someone our best friend, we have been close with him or her for at least a year and could trust him or her with our lives. We take the term “best friend” very seriously and expect the people in our lives to do the same.

You don’t share every detail about your life.

Everyone has secrets and personal or family issues. Some people air their dirty laundry for everyone to see, but others keep their lives to themselves. My thought process is as follows: everyone has their own problems, so why should I burden them with my own. They don’t need the extra issues to worry about or carry on their shoulders. Even if you are our best friend, you probably don’t know every detail or problem in our lives. On the other hand, if we share something personal with you, know it is rare and means we trust you.

You prefer quality to quantity.

Why have 20 good friends when you can have 5 best friends? Some people constantly need to be a part of a large group of friends, but people who are guarded prefer a smaller group of close friends. A large group means inevitable and unnecessary drama and probably a future split. Surrounding yourself with a smaller group of friends that you can trust to be loyal and there for you always is much more fulfilling.

You are the farthest thing from fake and stay clear of phonies.

Fake people are the worst. Fake smiles, fake laughs, fake friends. You can’t trust fake people with anything more than the latest gossip around campus. Guarded folks are the opposite of this. We are real and will not lie to you. If you want an honest opinion, we are the person you come to. If you need clear, unbiased advice, come on by. But if you are going to pretend to be someone you’re not, stay away and take your fakeness with you. We don’t want you to waste our time, and we most certainly won’t waste yours.

Your emotions are incredibly intense.

Why? Because we rarely follow our feelings. We like to think of ourselves as emotionally intelligent, so we keep them inside which is why when we do show them, they’re more intense than need be. I’m sad can mean I’m dying and sobbing insideI’m frustrated usually means I could punch a hole in that freaking building right now, and that’s insane means I’m judging you…really hard.

You know your worth.

You have been burned and won’t let it happen again. This shows an attuned sense of self-awareness. People will say you’re shutting people out, but you’re not. You’re shutting the WRONG people out. You’re a warrior with zero time for nonsense. It’s commendable. No matter what the haters say. You’re a worthy challenge and you know that. You set the stakes high, bolt the gate, and wait for the person who is up to the task.

You are worth it and you know it. You’re not looking for just anything. You’re looking for the thing that makes being open WORTH it to YOU.

You understand how life works.

If you’re guarded, you’re not just damaged or broken or intense. You understand that people are not to be trusted without earning it. You get that for the most part, people are kind of terrible. You can call me a downer all you want. You can say that I have a bleak view of humanity.

I say that you just don’t get it. If you think that people should be automatically given the benefit of the doubt, you probably haven’t had enough life experience to have a clear view of the world. The world is a tough place. It’s cruel.

Remember that being guarded and careful isn’t always wrong, especially when it comes to people who you feel won’t reciprocate your commitment and love. And while closing yourself off completely is definitely the safest bet, it doesn’t always have the best payoff. Eventually you’ll find someone worthy of your vulnerability and when you do, I would encourage you to let them in. But only when your heart is ready.

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