Acts of Compassion Boost Self-Esteem and Lessen Depression

Doing good for others boosts self-esteem, study shows.

Ever notice that doing something selfless for another person can improve your mood?  Check out this Vancouver Sun report on an on-line study conducted by Miriam Mongrain and her colleagues from York University.  Early results, set to be published in the journal Psychological Science, indicated that “acts of compassion” help to improve self-esteem and mood.

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Depression linked to genes in two studies

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Depression linked to genes in two studies.

Two new studies link Depression to chromosomes, supporting evidence of a genetic link for this disorder.  I hope that this research helps to reduce the stigma of mental illness, and assists people in getting the treatment and therapy they need.  Too many people suffer in silence, when medication and cognitive behavioural therapy can lift them from the depths of despair.

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Attachment Problems & Strengthening Your Relationship With Your Child

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I recently spoke at an information session for prospective foster parents, and was struck by the parents’ thoughtful and heartfelt concerns about possible problems associated with attachment amongst adoptive children.

Children who have experienced institutionalized care, or early history of neglect and/or abuse, may be at greater risk for attachment problems.  However, attachment issues can also occur among infants and children with special needs, those who have been cared for by depressed parents, or where there has simply been a miss-match between parent and child.

In the most difficult of cases, attachment problems are diagnosed by a Child Psychiatrist as a disorder “within” the child (Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood), using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV).

I have worked with many children with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Some of them were physically or sexually abused in childhood, and experienced their caregivers as terrifying.  Other children experienced their caregivers/parents as confusing, chaotic, or absent.

Whatever the conditions were for developing attachment problems, the core issue is one of trust between the child and their primary caregiver.  Inner security and interpersonal trust develop when the child’s needs are met by their primary caregiver.

When an infant cries because he is hungry, the parent meets this need by providing a bottle.  When a child cries because she is hurt, or afraid, the parent meets this need by providing protection, a cuddle, and some reassuring words.

The child communicates their needs, with cries, facial expressions, words, or behaviour.  When their needs are met, the child feels secure, worthwhile, and able.

Children who have not experienced core, healthy, attachments in infancy, can develop them later in childhood.  However, it takes an extreme amount of patience and dedication on behalf of their caregiver(s).

Whether your child has an actual diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder, is at risk for having an attachment problem, or whether you just wish to promote positive attachment with your child, there are things you can do to help.

Make sure your child’s basic needs are met:  food, shelter, warmth, love.

Provide structure and routine on a daily basis; this will encourage feelings of safety.

Keep in mind that your child’s emotional needs may be extreme at times.

If your child is acting out, think to yourself, what does my child need right now?

Listen to your child’s messages, be they verbal or non-verbal.

Let your child have some control in their life, by giving them age appropriate choices.

Play with your child every day.

Let your child decide what to play, and have them direct your play for a change.

Be liberal with affection-but respect your child if they don’t want a hug or a tickle.

Take a break for yourself, parenting can be exhausting.

Talk to someone about your concerns, thoughts and feelings about parenting.

If you need support, get it sooner rather than later.

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New Anxiety Treatment Possible

New Study Identifies Biological Mechanism for Anxiety

Research published last week in The Journal of Neuroscience identified a mechanism in the brain that controls anxiety.  The Victoria Times Colonist reports: New anxiety treatment possible.  While current medications do exist for treating Anxiety, this new study will likely initiate a new generation of Anxiety medications.  It is also a reminder to all that Anxiety is a biologically based problem, and should help to reduce some of the stigma associated with this prevalent mental health condition .

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Yoga Benefits Mood and Mental Health

Yoga tops walking, study finds.

Exercise can improve your mood, and decrease anxiety and depression symptoms.  Studies have shown that even walking 20 minutes a day can improve your mood, leaving you feeling more calm and relaxed.  This new study, cited in the Victoria Times Colonist on November 27, 2010, indicates that practicing Yoga has even more beneficial effects in individuals with anxiety and depression symptoms.

It may be that the exercise Yoga provides alone accounts for the improvements in Mental Health.  Other possible factors include: mindfullness practice (similar to meditation), the act of re-focusing the mind away from ones’ troubles, or the social benefits of participating in a yoga class.

Anyway you add it up, Yoga is good for the body and mind.

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Investing in children

Investing in children.

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Six Easy Steps for Resolving Conflict

1.  PLAN FOR THE DISCUSSION

DO

*Let go of anger generated by trivial issues.

*Deal with small but significant issues when they happen.

*Be assertive; if it’s important to you, it’s worthy of discussion.

*Deal with big issues as soon as possible, preferably when you’re both prepared to deal with them.

*Know what you’re fighting about. Be specific, limited and direct with your complaint.

*Bring up one thing at a time.

*Pick a good time for you both. Make and keep an appointment if necessary.

*Take some deep breaths, and try to be calm.

AVOID

*Giving “the silent treatment”.

*Bringing up an issue at a time embarrassing to the other person.

*Gunny sacking – saving up little hurts and hostilities, then dumping them all at once.

2.  BRING UP A CONCERN

DO

*Use “I” statements (“I’m frustrated about…”).

*Choose your words carefully.

*Be specific and concise (one or two sentences at a time).

*Say what you really mean.

*Stay in the present; use current examples.

*Deal the person’s behavior, not personality.

AVOID

* Generalizing – “You never…” or “I’m always…”

* Labeling, name caIling, character assassination.

* Mind reading – telling the other person what they’re thinking and feeling.

* Dwelling on past grievances.

* Blaming the other person for your problem.

* Hitting below the belt– purposely calling attention to known weaknesses or areas of sensitivity.

* Exaggerating – overreacting to a situation or making idle threats or ultimatums.

3.  LISTEN

DO

*Take your time to listen.

*Empathize—think about the other person’s message, what they may be feeling etc.

*Paraphrase, or ask for clarification.

*Attend with your body language, eye contact etc.

AVOID

*Preparing your “defense” in advance.

*Treating your conversation like a competition.

4.  RESPOND

DO

*Take your time–count to 10, or more.

*Try not to take the other person’s statements personally.

*Be sensitive. Avoid fighting back when the other person is just letting off steam.

*Check out the other person’s feelings and thoughts.

*Use “I” statements; “When I hear…..I feel…….”.

*Take responsibility for your actions, and don’t be afraid to say “I was wrong”.

*Take a time-out if you need to collect your thoughts.

AVOID

*Making assumptions.

*Cross complaining: responding to the person’s complaint with one of your own.

*Ignoring the person.

*Belittling the person, or their concerns.

5.  NEGOTIATE

DO

*Try to determine, what the particular problem or issue is.

*Try to solve the problem together.

*See if there is a way for each of you to get something you need/want.

*Keep to the subject. Try to resolve one issue before moving to another.

*Realize that not all problems will be solved in a day; it may take time.

*Consider the value of maintaining your relationship, during all discussions.

AVOID

*Holding a position, or setting an ultimatum “it’s my way or the highway”.

*Walking out, name calling, generalizing etc.

*Presenting non-negotiable demands.

*Overwhelming each other with a list of concerns.

*Thinking the other person must lose if you are to win (and vice-versa).

6.  RESOLVE

DO

*Call a foul when you feel a communication guideline has been broken.

*Be ready to forgive, or let some things go.

*If the fight isn’t resolved right now, make an appointment to finish it later.

*Allow for interim or temporary solutions.

*If the fight is resolved, try to finish with an expression of positive feelings that you’ve worked together successfully.

*Have a safety valve for excess emotion: jogging, biking, listening to music, etc.

AVOID

*Breaking previous agreements.

*Continuing with repetitious, stale arguments with no progress being made toward resolution.

*Pretending to go along, or to agree when you really don’t.

*Withholding affections, or shutting down.

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