Tips for Good Self-Care

7 Tips for Good Self-Care

The benefits of focusing on self-awareness—of tuning into your body and taking the time to nourish it properly—are profound: Research suggests that the more we practice good self-care, the more confident, creative, and productive we are. There’s been a lot of talk about “self-care” lately.  What is it, and how can it help you?

 

1. Self-care is about looking out for Number One. 

The idea behind self-care is that if you don’t take care of your needs first, you can’t effectively help others. Think of when you are on an airplane.  The flight attendants tell you that in the event of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on before helping others.  The same concept applies to mental health.

2. Proactive self-care is better than reactive self-care.

When you are proactive about your self-care, you regularly build in times in your schedule to take care of yourself, instead of waiting until you are burned out or stressed out.  When you wait until a crisis to kick in your self-care, this is called reactive self-care.  When you practice consistent proactive self-care, the crisis situations feel more manageable, and you keep burnout at bay.

3. Self-care is different for everyone. 

One person’s healthy self-care practices may not be helpful for someone else.  And that’s okay.  If you’re an extrovert (you relax by being around other people), part of your self-care may be getting together with a group of friends.  If you are an introvert (you relax by having alone time), part of your self-care might be to curl up with a good book. What works for you is what works for you.

4. Self-care includes seeking therapy. 

If you are having some barriers to practicing self-care, like feeling guilty about taking time out for yourself or not feeling quite sure how to do self-care, contacting a mental health professional can help you learn more about yourself, and patterns of behavior that may be “speedbumps” on the way to taking good care of yourself.

5. Good self-care teaches you about setting boundaries. 

When you practice good self-care, you set limits around your time and what you need.  Healthy people in your life respect boundaries.  They may not necessarily like that you said “no” to an activity, but they accept your “no” as you taking good care of yourself.

The more you set these healthy boundaries, you’ll find that people are more respectful of your time.  You are also role-modeling a healthy lifestyle for your friends and family.

6. Good self-care can be written down in a list.  

Take some time to write down activities or interests that give you energy, rather than drain it.  Your list might include walking your dog, talking with a supportive friend, or watching a favorite movie. Keep this list nearby and in your phone or another device.

When you are starting to feel stressed, or you want to practice some proactive self-care, go to your list.  Having good-self care strategies at your fingertips can quickly help you decrease your stress level.


7. Good self-care takes practice. 

You may be the type of person who likes to do things well the first time, and if you can’t do them well all the time, then you drop it altogether.  You probably also tend to be very reactive to stress.

Practicing good self-care takes time – if you haven’t done it on a regular basis, it will take a bit to get into the routine. Schedule self-care times.

If you “backslide” and don’t practice self-care for a week, it’s okay, just get back into it.  It doesn’t mean all your self-care was for nothing – it means that you are human.

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Good Night Sleep

Why You Need a Good Night Sleep

Getting a good night sleep is one of those things that you hear doctors talk about all the time. But none of them actually takes the time to tell you why.

First off, there’s the lymphatic system that cleans up your brain during sleepy time. That’s something like garbage collection.

Imagine those guys went on strike for a month. The whole city would stink! If you wouldn’t sleep and wouldn’t be able to massively reduce your blood flow and pressure (which happens in your sleep) from time to time. You’d have your entire body filled up with residues and toxins from what you ate and your body consumed.

The lymphatic system cleans up your brain while you have a good night sleep. There’s an awesome TED talk on that by Jeff Iliff neuroscientist.

Then there’s long-term memory allocation. The linking of events (which is a part of learning) takes place during sleep. If you learn too much and don’t sleep on it, you’re much more likely to forget it all. Remember college? I almost don’t…

Another scientist, Michio Kaku, hints towards some research on prolonging life. Yes, they actually studied ways of prolonging life and they’ve actually found the secret for it. In one sentence: reduce your calorie intake. Eat less, that’s it. A safe bet is that if you sleep more, you’ll need to eat less. Night-time fasting rules!

A good night sleep reduces your blood pressure and boosts your immunity. That’s always a healthy choice. Because of that, your skin will get better, your vision will improve, your overall stamina will increase. And your focus will be more focused.

So what’s worth more to you, staying up late feeling lonely online or looking and feeling good the next day? Hell, if it doesn’t work, you can always go back to your sleepless activities.

I know lots of people who stay up late after a long day at work, only to find themselves tired in the morning. Waking up, doing the same things over and over, tiring themselves to the bone.

You can choose to be different. You can toughen yourself up to be able to withstand days of going to bed early, nights without TV, weekends without drinking.

Also, you can train yourself to fall asleep faster and without the need of tools. I’m not saying you should forever go to bed early, but you should definitely invest in a more efficient lifestyle and get better quality sleep. Go on, try it out.

 

 

 

 

 

Reading is the supreme life hack. Gathered knowledge that often took years to assemble can be consumed in just a few hours. Here you have the best in: Sport Science, Psychology, Coaching and Talent Development.

 

Topics.

Talent Identification and Development.

  • Mindset – Updated Edition. Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential by Carol S. Dweck || English, January 2017.
  • Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth || English, August 2018
  • Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell || English, November 2008
  • The Gold Mine Effect by Rasmus Ankersen || English, 2012
  • The Athletic Skills Model , Optimizing Talent Development Through Movement Education by Renè Wormhoudt, Geert J.P. SavelsberghJan Willem TeunissenKeith Davids||English, October 2017
  • Open by Andre Agassi || English, 2009
  • The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman|| English, 1997

 

Managing.

  • Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty || English, 2013
  • Legacy by James Kerr || English, 2013
  • Quiet Leadership: Winning Hearts, Minds and Matches by Carlo Ancelotti || English, 2016
  • My Turn: The Autobiography by Johan Cruyff || English, 2016
  • Louis van Gaal, Biografie & Visie || Dutch, 2009
  • Team Building: The Road to Success by Rinus Michels || English, 2001
  • Leading by Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz || English, 2016
  • The Manager, Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders by Mike Carson|| English, 2014
  • Coaching Mourinho, tecniche e strategie vincenti del piu’ grande allenatore del mondo by Juan Carlos Cubeiro and Leonor Gallardo|| Italiano, 2012
  • Metodo Conte by Alessandro Alciato || Italiano, 2015

 

Sport Science and Psychology.

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman ||English, October 2011
  • Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game by David Sumpter || English 2016
  • Outnumbered. From Facebook and Google to fake news and filter-bubbles-the algorithms that control our lives by David Sumpter || English, 2018
  • Edge. Leadership Secrets from Football’s Top Thinkers by Ben Lyttleton || English, 2017

 

Interesting and inspiring.

  • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki  || English, 2007
  • Plato, The Republic  || English
  • Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson || English, 2010
  • Italiani di Domani by Giuseppe Severgnini || Italian, 2012
  • The Mind Map Book: Unlock Your Creativity, Boost Your Memory, Change Your Life by Toni Buzan || English, 1993
  • Think and Growth Rich || Napoleon Hill, 1937*2016
  • Sapiens: A brief history of Humankind by Y.N. Harari || English, 2011
  • Homo Deus: A brief history of Tomorrow by Y.N. Harari || English, 2015
  • Shoes Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight || English, 2016
  • Knowing Mandela by John Carlin || English, 2013

 

 

Topics. Talent Identification and Development. Mindset – Updated Edition. Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential by Carol S. Dweck || English, January 2017.

Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth || English, August 2018 Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell || English, November 2008 The Gold Mine Effect by Rasmus Ankersen […]

via Books list: Sport Science, Psychology, Coaching and Talent Development — #sharingfootballideas

 

Creatine is not just for the muscle

Creatine is not just for the muscle

 

If you’re involved in sports that require speed, power, and muscle, then you’ve likely come across creatine before.

The supplement gained prominence in the early 1990s as a method of enhancing strength, and since then research has continued to explore its use as a sports performance aid.

Beyond muscle, creatine is a supplement that can optimize performance across many different realms. 

In this article, I’ll give an overview of the research underpinning creatine’s use as a training aid, but also focus on some of the more novel findings regarding creatine. This includes its use as an agent to prevent disuse atrophy in injured athletes, as a cognitive enhancer, and as a potentially important agent in the recovery from concussion.

Given these important new findings, we can no longer just consider creatine from the perspective of muscle, but instead view it as a supplement that can optimize performance across a number of different realms.

 

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring, nitrogen-containing molecule that tends to be found in animal flesh. Creatine’s main role in humans is as part of the ATP-PC energy system—the method by which we produce energy rapidly during high-intensity exercise, such as in sprinting or lifting heavy weights.

Our body utilizes adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the “energy currency” of the cell—to power muscle contraction; here, the breaking of a bond between one of the phosphate molecules and adenosine creates the energy required for contraction.

This leads to a buildup of adenosine diphosphate (ADP), which the body can’t utilize for energy quite as readily. Instead, it needs to add an additional phosphate molecule to ADP, recycling it back to ATP.

This reaction requires an additional phosphate molecule to be found from somewhere, and the most readily available source is from phosphocreatine, one of the major ways creatine is stored in the body.
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Creatine Supplementation for Performance

Given that we need energy to train, and given that the majority of speed, strength, and power adaptations come from high-intensity exercise. It was a logical step for researchers to take a closer look at whether creatine supplementation could increase muscular levels of creatine.

If it could, then in theory we would have greater amounts of phosphocreatine available, and so could both sustain high-intensity exercise for longer and also recover from it quicker.

An early study from 1992 was one of the first to test this hypothesis. In this case, the researchers recruited 17 males and females of differing ages (ranging from 20-62 years old), and differing levels of fitness.

It was found that 5g of creatine (the amount found in just over 1kg of steak) resulted in a decent increase in blood plasma levels of creatine, and that supplementation of 5g four to six times per day for at least two days led to a substantial increase in creatine levels within the muscle.

Subsequent research indicated that, following a loading phase comprised of six days of consuming 20g of creatine per day, the increased creatine levels could be maintained with an intake of just 2g per day.

A daily dose of 3g per day, with no loading phase, was found to be similarly effective at increasing and maintaining creatine levels, such that, today, most athletes skip the loading phase and just consume creatine at a set dose.

But do increased creatine stores lead to enhanced performance? Well, the short answer is yes—this has been exceptionally well-researched over the years. Now we can be very confident that creatine supplementation can enhance performance in exercise tasks lasting less than 30 seconds (where the ATP-PC system plays a large role), strength, and strength endurance, as well as potentially aiding in improvements in body composition.

There is also some evidence that creatine supplementation may enhance aerobic endurance performance, potentially due to an increased ability to train at higher workloads.

 

Creatine Supplementation for Recovery

Alongside its clear and replicated performance benefits, there is also the potential that creatine can act to support recovery from exercise, which a number of different studies have explored.

Such a positive effect of creatine supplementation has been shown for recovery from sprint-based exercise, resistance training, endurance exerciseand competition, and eccentric loading protocols. In particular, it appears to enhance the repeated bout effect, whereby we experience less soreness following prior eccentric loading.

Although not all studies show such a positive effect, none show a negative effect, and so creatine supplementation may be a worthwhile consideration as a recovery agent.

Furthermore, chronic ingestion of creatine enhances muscle glycogen resynthesis following prolonged exercise. Illustrating that it might be a useful method of enhancing recovery between repeated bouts of endurance exercise, such as those seen in heats and finals at major championships, or in team sports that compete on a weekly basis.

 

Creatine Supplementation and Injury

Creatine has also shown promise as an agent that may enhance the post-injury rehabilitation process. This can be especially true when immobilization has to occur, for example when a cast is worn.

In a 2009 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers recruited seven male subjects and had their arm placed in a plaster cast for seven days on two different occasions. On one occasion they received a placebo, and on another they consumed 20g of creatine per day for the duration of immobilization.

 

Creatine has shown promise as an agent that may enhance the post-injury rehabilitation process.

 

The researchers found that creatine supplementation maintained lean muscle mass to a greater extent than placebo following immobilization, which in turn was associated with better maintenance of strength and strength endurance.

These results have since been replicated—although an effect is not always found—and, given that increasing the strength of an injured body part post-injury is a crucial part of the return-to-play process, it’s easy to understand how a better maintenance of muscle mass and strength during the early injury immobilization phase may be worthwhile.

 

Creatine Supplementation and the Brain

Given what I’ve reviewed so far, it’s clear that creatine has a multitude of positive physiological effects on performance across a variety of different domains, from strength to sprints to endurance training. But its positive effects don’t just end there.

While the majority (~95%) of the creatine in our bodies is found in our muscles, a smaller proportion can be found in the brain, where, as in muscle, it has a role to play in the production of energy.

This gives creatine the potential to be a useful neurocognitive enhancer. A great example of this is creatine’s use in the management of Parkinson’s disease. It is believed that Parkinson’s develops through mitochondrial dysfunction, indicating that there is a breakdown in the optimal production of energy in the brain.

Because creatine can help offset this metabolic dysfunction, it may well be useful here, and is in fact undergoing testing in clinical trials. Such cognitive effects have also been shown in non-diseased subjects, including the elderly and those who may consume lower-than-normal dietary levels of creatine, such as vegetarians.

Perhaps one of the more exciting neurocognitive uses of creatine, from a performance perspective, is that it appears to mitigate some of the negative effects of insufficient sleep.

This could be important when it comes to sports that have a higher neurocognitive demand, characterized by the need to make many decisions in a short period of time, as in many team sports.

 

One exciting neurocognitive use of creatine—it may lessen some adverse effects of inadequate sleep.

 

This was shown in a neat 2011 study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Here, researchers put 10 elite rugby players through a rugby passing skill test on 10 different occasions.

Half of the times the subjects undertook the passing test, they had slept for between seven and nine hours the previous night; the other times, they had slept for between three and five hours. Ninety minutes before the start of each trial, they took a placebo, creatine (either in a dose of 50 or 100 mg/kg), or caffeine (in a dose of 1 or 5 mg/kg).

The results indicated, unsurprisingly, that sleep deprivation negatively affected skill execution, but that the use of either creatine or caffeine reduced this negative effect.

Regarding the creatine, subjects taking the higher dose (100 mg/kg, equivalent to 8g creatine in an 80kg individual) performed slightly better than those taking the 50 mg/kg dose. As such, while we all understand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, for times when this hasn’t happened—perhaps due to travel, or pre-competition nerves—creatine represents a potentially useful avenue to at least rescue some of the expected performance loss.

While it is obvious to state that exercise depletes energy stores, and that this is a cause of fatigue, we are starting to understand that there is in fact a two-way interaction between the brain and body when it comes to determining how fatigued an individual is during exercise. (The excellent book Endure by Alex Hutchinson explores this particularly well.)

Briefly, it is thought that fatigue—defined as the inability to maintain a certain workload—occurs, in part, through the brain’s interpretation of a multitude of signals, including those measuring energy stores.

There is the possibility here that additional muscular creatine, derived through supplementation, could act to “trick” the brain into thinking there is more energy available, allowing the athlete to exercise for longer.

Additionally, physical exercise also causes cognitive fatigue and, given that creatine supplementation can enhance cognitive function, it may also improve cognitive function towards the end of prolonged training and competition events, enhancing decision-making under fatigue.

This could be especially important in team sport tournaments that have the possibility of extra time or overtime, and even penalty shootouts; here, the enhanced skill levels of the players with less cognitive fatigue (augmented by creatine supplementation) might be the difference between winning and losing.

 

Creatine and Concussion

So far, we have looked at how creatine supplementation may be able to enhance performance, but the most recent aspect of creatine research has been exploring how it might act as a neuroprotective agent when it comes to recovering from concussions.

Following a concussive injury, research has shown that creatine concentrations in the brain decrease, and this, in turn, causes changes in metabolism within the brain cells, lengthening recovery time.

Additionally, there is the potential that creatine can act as an antioxidant within the brain, supporting the recovery from concussive events.

The use of creatine as a neuroprotector has been tested experimentally, both in animal models and, more recently, in humans. The results from the animal models were positive: supplementation with creatine prior to the concussive event was associated with up to 50% less damage to the brain cells, which was mediated by creatine’s protective effects on the mitochondria.

In the human studies, children who were suffering from a concussion were infused with ~0.4 grams of creatine per kilogram of bodyweight (a substantial creatine dose) every day for six months. They tended to showed improvements in memory, communication, and behavior, and had shorter hospital stays, when compared to the placebo group.

While these early results are promising, clearly there needs to be a greater amount of research carried out in this field before we can make more concrete statements.

However, even based on the preliminary work undertaken so far, it does appear that creatine supplementation can enhance the recovery from concussive injuries—and certainly doesn’t seem to be negative.

Based on the animal studies, there may be an additional protective advantage from creatine supplementation prior to the concussion happening, which is perhaps an added consideration for those athletes competing in contact sports.

 

Tentative Creatine Supplementation Recommendations

When it comes to the form of creatine to be used, there are many different types out there. The “original” form is creatine monohydrate; the research base suggests that this form is both safe for long-term use and also effective.

As a small caveat here, given the fairly recent advent of creatine supplementation, the majority of studies are carried out over short time periods. As such, there are actually very few studies examining the effects of long-term (i.e., years) creatine supplementation, although data does suggest that continuous use for five years is not associated with any negative consequences in healthy individuals.

Based on this, it seems sensible to suggest that those consuming creatine should have periods of time where they don’t utilize supplemental creatine. I tended to have eight continuous weeks per year in the off-season where I didn’t consume any supplemental creatine.

There is much less research on the alternative forms of creatine, so it’s difficult to ascertain their long-term safety and effectiveness. However, from the research that I have seen, they appear to offer no real advantages over creatine monohydrate. Therefore, given that this form is the cheapest, it seems the most sensible route for consumption.

A further consideration is that there is likely individual variation in the response to creatine supplementation. For many people, creatine will be readily available from diet.

In people who consume meat on a daily basis, about half of their daily creatine requirements (2-3g) could be coming from dietary sources, with a pound of uncooked meat generally providing somewhere between 1 and 2 grams of creatine. As a result, many people likely need to supplement with less creatine than they might think.

A study from 2017 further explored this individual variation. Here, the researchers recruited 15 children (aged 10-12 years old), 31 adults (18-45 years old, of which just under half were vegetarian), and 18 elderly subjects (aged between 62 and 84 years).

The subjects were given a placebo for seven days, and then switched to creatine (at 0.5 grams per kilogram of body mass) for seven days. At baseline, the adult vegetarians had the lowest levels of dietary creatine intake, which is unsurprising given that creatine is found in animal flesh. The adult omnivores had the highest intakes, with the children and elderly adults having similar intakes.

Creatine supplementation increased the muscle creatine content of both the children and the elderly subjects, and also the vegetarian adults, but was found to have a less-robust effect in adult omnivores. This demonstrates that the impact of creatine supplementation can vary as a function of regular diet, with those who consume the least creatine through dietary sources responding the best.

There were no differences between the male and female subjects in this study, suggesting that sex has no impact on the responsiveness to supplementation.

Based on all the above, what advice could we give to people considering creatine supplementation? First, creatine has been shown to be effective at enhancing both performance in, and longer term training adaptations from, high-intensity exercise, including sprint and resistance training.

Therefore, for athletes involved in sports that require high levels of performance in these traits, creatine represents a potential avenue for performance enhancement. There is less evidence that it may support aerobic endurance performance, although, again, as far as I am aware there are no studies demonstrating a negative effect of creatine supplementation.

Given that athletes of all sports should be utilizing some resistance training, there is the potential for creatine to be effective.

The two methods commonly utilized when supplementing with creatine are either a loading method, which usually involves doses of around 25g per day for about a week, followed by a maintenance phase of 3-5g per day, or just ingestion of the maintenance dose (3-5g per day). Anecdotally, I always preferred just dosing with a smaller amount, but for extended periods of time.

Alongside creatine’s impact on training, it also has beneficial effects on post-exercise recovery, and potentially as a neurocognitive enhancer. As such, creatine is now present in many pre- and post-exercise ready-made mixes, which athletes might wish to consider.

The combination of creatine and caffeine pre-competition (or even during competition, if the competitive bout is prolonged) may enhance the decision-making ability, and offset feelings of fatigue. Similarly, following a maximal exercise bout, such as during competition, supplementation with creatine may boost recovery.

The optimal dose for both these scenarios is dependent on the athlete’s current intake of creatine, both through diet and supplementation.

If the athlete is already consuming supplemental creatine at the maintenance dose of 3-5g per day, then doses above this are unlikely to offer any additional effect. However, if they are not currently consuming creatine (many athletes reduce creatine intake prior to competition), then larger doses of 10-20g might be appropriate.

 

If an athlete suffers an injury, creatine supplementation might be a worthwhile intervention.

 

When it comes to recovery from injuries, creatine supplementation has been shown to mitigate the losses of muscle mass and strength following disuse. As such, if an athlete suffers an injury, creatine supplementation might be a worthwhile intervention. The dose used in many studies was 20g per day, although if the athlete is already consuming creatine such a loading phase may not be required.

Finally, athletes in contact sports, particularly those that may predispose to head trauma and concussion, might be interested in the neuroprotective aspect of creatine supplementation.

Some studies suggest that supplementation prior to a head injury is required to reap the full benefits, pointing to an advantage to keeping creatine stores topped up throughout the competitive season in these players. However, post-injury supplementation has also been shown to be effective, often using doses of 15-20g per day.

To my knowledge, no study has compared the impact of pre-injury supplementation with that of post-injury supplementation, so it’s unclear which, if either, is more effective.

 

How I Used Creatine

I started using creatine in 2005, just after I won the European Junior Championships and was looking to take my training to the next level. In my first year, I utilized a loading phase of 5 x 5g doses per day for seven days. I personally didn’t like this—I found that I had gastrointestinal distress, and my muscles also felt very “full,” although this is completely anecdotal. The following years, I hit on a schedule that worked for me:

  • Training Phase: During my training phases, I would consume 5g of creatine, usually post-workout, roughly on a six-weeks-on, two-weeks-off cycle.

 

  • Pre-Competition Phase: In the run-up to competition, I would stop taking creatine perhaps four to five days before a race. I did this initially on the advice of a successful training partner, although I’m not sure this is necessary. Anyway, creatine stores are typically well-maintained for a few days after stopping supplementation and, given that training intensity was low, I can’t imagine they degraded too much.

 

  • Immediately Pre-Race: As part of my pre-race stimulant drink, which I would take roughly 60 minutes prior to racing, I would consume around 3g of creatine.

 

  • Immediately Post-Race: Here, I would consume a slightly larger bolus dose of creatine, usually around 10g, in order to “top up” my stores and enhance recovery

 

  • Off-Season: I stopped consuming creatine for six to eight weeks during my off-season, just as a way of periodizing my approach.

 

Recommendations for Creatine Supplementation

In summary, creatine appears to be an effective nutritional aid to support not just performance, but also recovery—from both exercise and injury. As more recent research shows, creatine may also impact the brain, as both a neurocognitive enhancer and a neuroprotective agent.

Supplementing with creatine, most commonly in the form of creatine monohydrate, can increase both muscular and brain stores of creatine, which allow it to exert its benefits.

Because creatine is found in the diet through consumption of animal flesh, those that consume large amounts of meat on a regular basis may not respond as well to creatine supplementation as those who don’t consume much creatine through dietary sources, such as vegetarians, children, and the elderly.

A loading phase of ~20-25g per day for seven days can rapidly increase creatine stores, which should then be followed by a maintenance dose of 3-5g per day.

Alternatively, athletes may wish to just follow the maintenance protocol, which will increase creatine stores, albeit at a slower rate.

Finally, creatine supplementation appears safe for healthy individuals, as long-term continuous intakes of up to five years have shown no negative side effects.

However, I would always recommend having periods within the year where the athletes periodizes their intake as per their need.

 

By Craig Pickering

Mindfulness

One-Minute Guided Breathing Exercise

One-Minute Guided Breathing Exercise

 

Like just about everyone else, I own a smartphone. My phone, a iPhone 7 is pretty darned smart, and I’ve grown accustomed to it.

Every once in a while, though, it acts kind of stupid. It will shut down while I’m trying to look at something or write a note. Or its smart little screen will get stuck while I’m flipping through photos.

When this happens, I’ve got the solution. Like so many other pieces of technology I own, I just shut my phone off for a minute, let it rest, and turn it back on again. It emerges from its nap all refreshed and ready to do more smart things for me.

In some ways, our brains are like smartphones. The visible stuff like producing speech and guiding your fingers to the right phone keys is just part of what’s going on. You know how that feels – you’re typing up a letter at work, and your brain is feeding you anxious about your checking account or nagging you for eating too much at lunch. It never seems to stop.

 

 

My friends, my clients and even people that I don’t know that well, told me they’re always running, always working, always tired. I’ve ask them what they’ve done for themselves lately, and the answer is always the same – and usually comes after a slightly embarrassed pause. “Nothing.”

At this point especially with my clients, I do a little experiment. I have them close their eyes, if they’re comfortable with that, and I lead them on a one-minute guided breathing exercise. No point to it, no destination, just one minute of slow breathing. I tell them that if those anxious thoughts try to crowd into their breathing space, just notice them and then let them go. Observe and describe. “Oh, there’s a thought about money. Goodbye, thought about money.” “Hey, I’m judging myself for not being able to do a freaking breathing exercise correctly. Hi, judgment, I’m noticing you. Goodbye, judgment.”

And so on.

After a minute, I bring them back into the room. They’re often very reluctant to come back from that nice, centered, non-judgmental breathing space. I ask them when the last time they took even one minute to do nothing at all but breathe, and practice kindness to themselves. Again, the answer comes – never.

Next time you’re at work in a frenzied day, close your office door if you can, or just find a place to go (bathroom? Hopefully the boss won’t chase you there, although I had one in my past work life who would!) and take one minute for yourself. Breathe. Observe and describe your thoughts, and let them go. If it helps, visualize yourself next to a stream, and let your thoughts be washed by water. Now, you feel love and compassion for them, calm and relief. 

If you still have a bit of anxiety, or negative thoughts that persist, release them it into the stream. Repeat.

If you’re lucky, this will become a habit. Everyone has one minute per day to spare. The more you visit your brain, the better you’ll get at quickly finding an uncrowded corner in which to relax.

One minute, one day. Try it !

 

 

 

 

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Greta Thunberg’s Climate Activism from a Psychological Point of View

Greta Thunberg’s Climate Activism from a Psychological Point of View

 

Interest in the psychology of climate change activist, like Greta Thunberg, grown after her passionate speech to the world leaders at the UN in New York last September.

For me, it was deeply moving. For a guest speaking on Fox News, this was “climate hysteria” from a “mentally ill Swedish child”.

It’s hardly news to point out that Thunberg is polarising. For everyone who feels shocked and shamed into doing whatever they can — no matter how small — to mitigate climate change, there seems to be someone else who finds her outrage unbearable. But would Thunberg really be more broadly appealing if she did things any differently?

Are there, in other words, any lessons from psychological research that she and other activists might bear in mind?

For any activist hoping to change the world, their audience must first accept that change is necessary, and also feel motivated and empowered to achieve that change. Psychology is of course key to all this, and numerous studies are being done in this area.

When it comes to that first point — accepting the need for change — Nadia Bashir at the University of Toronto and colleagues wondered whether people might resist it in some cases not because (or not just because) they have problems with the message, but rather because they’re not keen on the messenger.

In an online study involving 140 US participants, published in 2013, the researchers found that environmentalist activists were perceived as being unappealingly eccentric and militant. Not only did the participants perceive them as having unappealing traits, but they didn’t want to affiliate with such people, either.

Their “seemingly zealous dedication to a social cause may backfire and elicit unfavourable reactions from others,” Bashir and her colleagues wrote. “The very individuals who are most actively engaged in promoting social change may inadvertently alienate members of the public and reduce pro-change motivation.”

Given these results, you might suspect that this particular participant group had more “anti-environment” than “pro-environment” members. However, as research out of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has made plain, the division within the general public is simply not that binary [PDF].

The researchers identified nine distinct “environmental attitude” groups in the US, each with their own constellation of views on everything from whether an environmental crisis exists to what the government’s role should be in regulating it.

Parts of Thunberg’s UN speech may, then, have struck the receptive minds of some across the pro- and ‘anti’-environment lines, while causing others to batten down their psychological hatches. Of course, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. If it were possible to direct nuanced climate change-related messages to these distinct groups, potentially, this might lead to more desired change overall.

What about emotion? Should activists display it, or not? The great Roman orator and statesman Cicero advised speakers to prefer emotion to reason.

And emotion-based marketing is known to be more effective than fact-based approaches. Some people do find all-out outrage off-putting. But perhaps our society needs to encourage a more positive view of it, argue a trio of psychologists from Penn State and Harvard.

In one experiment, published in 2018, they reported that feelings of outrage were more effective at driving participation in a project to address an injustice than feelings of hope that such a project might work. Moral outrage is a “critical force for collective action,” they concluded.

 

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Teenagers are renowned for doing outrage pretty well. They’re also well-connected via social media, and also have other activist advantages, argued Albert Bandura at Stanford University and Lynne Cherry of the organisation Young Voices for the Planet, in a 2019 paper in American Psychologist.

“Climate scientists have been sounding increasingly urgent alarms about the catastrophic consequences of climate change,” the pair wrote. And yet, “twenty annual UN Summits provided no international commitment to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases”. So it’s important to look at who might be best placed to really make a difference — and they believe the answer lies in young activists.

Young people are in a better position to catalyse action on climate change than most adults, think Bandura and Cherry. Young people are effective messengers, they write, because without change, they will suffer far more than the adults around today. And they can occupy the moral high ground, because the audience knows that they are not beholden to special interests (like making money or winning elections).

Thunberg has achieved truly global fame, but Bandura and Cherry point to other examples of hugely influential young activists, such as German environmentalist Felix Finkbeiner, who, after learning as a boy that trees absorb carbon dioxide, set up a project that has led to more than a million trees being planted worldwide.

Think back to the second part of what’s needed for change (feeling motivated and empowered to achieve that change) — Finkbeiner presented a problem, and also a practical way for people to help, even in the smallest way, to address it. There are many other examples of child environmental activists bringing about meaningful change, they note.

There is evidence that even in the US, record numbers of people are worried about climate change. According to the results of a nationally representative survey, published in 2019, 73 per cent think it’s happening, 69 per cent are worried about it and 29 per cent are very worried. “After a year of devastating extreme events, dire scientific reports, and growing media coverage of climate change, a record number of Americans are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening, are increasingly worried, and say the issue is personally important to them,” said lead researcher Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University.

Climate activists like Thunberg may, then, increasingly be preaching to the converted, and be less likely to be viewed as “unappealingly eccentric and militant” than might have been the case only five years ago.

But when it comes to persuading other people to make necessary changes, it’s worth bearing in mind the potential power of humour, as well as fear, argues Jeff Niederdeppe at Cornell University’s Center for a Sustainable Future.

In 2018, he and a PhD student, Christofer Skurka, worked with a theatre group to create a series of videos featuring a weathercaster making forecasts about extreme weather patterns caused by climate change. One, the “ominous” version, highlighted the severity of climate change and its impacts. In another “humorously” silly version, the weathercaster seemed clueless as he struggled to understand the signs of climate change. A third was designed to be neutral in tone.

The “ominous” video, designed to inspire fear, was effective across the full age range of 18 to 30 years. But the humorous one worked well for the 18- to 24-year-olds, too. “The people who found it funny were more likely to want to plan or partake in activism, recycle more and believe climate change is risky,” Skurka reported.

Some people may mock Thunberg. Others may applaud her, though make no changes in their lives. Yet others will take her message to heart. It’s purely anecdotal evidence, of course, but the week after that particular UN address, someone on the Google mailing group for my own street, and a group of streets around mine, put out a message saying that they were concerned about climate change, and asking anyone who felt the same way to get in touch, to meet, to discuss what we as a small community can do.

I’ve lost count of how many people have reacted to the thread. It’s true that I would have predicted that my particular neighbourhood would respond in that way. Around here, she was preaching to the converted — but those who needed an extra nudge.

Still, as so many studies, from those run by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication to the extreme weather videos experiments have shown, we’re different, and surely no one type of activism or activist will appeal to everyone. All kinds of voices will be needed to truly make a difference in 2020, and beyond.

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By Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is a staff writer at BPS Research Digest