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Do You Talk to Yourself Out Loud? Science Shows Why It’s a Good Idea

Monday, August 07, 2017


Do You Talk to Yourself Out Loud? Science Says That’s GoodHave you always thought that talking to yourself out loud means you’re going crazy? Well, science is showing that it’s actually a good way to see a situation more objectively.

Psychologists call talking to yourself out loud “external self-talk”. And it can take two basic forms: instructional self-talk (walking yourself through a process) or motivational self-talk (“I’ve got this. I can do this.”)

Interestingly, studies have shown that motivational self-talk works best if you refer to yourself in the second or third person (“You can do this. Insert-your-name, you’ve got this.”) It distances you further from the experience, enhances your self-control and lowers your anxiety more. As a result, it helps you to be more objective and less emotional. (Ethan Kross, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan has published a pdf of his findings. Click here to read it.)

A recent New York Times article gives further insight on how instructional self-talk benefits you. For one thing, it blocks out distractions so you can focus better. It also employs the feedback hypothesis, namely by hearing it out loud you can visualize the object, which makes your brain connect to its “file of information” on that object.

For example, in their experiments, they asked people to locate a specific item out of series of random items. Those that spoke the name of the object out loud located the object more accurately and quickly, because their brains retrieved the visual image of the object.

So, no, you’re not going crazy if you talk to yourself out loud. It’s a smart thing to do – with one caveat – make sure your self-talk is always positive and encouraging. Negative self-talk is very damaging. It can even change your brain chemistry.

When you’re controlled by habitually negative patterns of thinking, it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Does neuroscience fascinate you? Why not review some of my past articles. Simply type “Brain Science” into the Search Box on this page and enjoy!

How the Brain Encodes and Stores Facial Memories

Monday, July 31, 2017


Learn how your brain stores and encodes facial recognition so you’re able to recognize someone even if you haven’t seen each other for decades.You’ve been asked to identify a woman in a series of photographs. You haven’t seen her in years, but as a picture of a crowd flashes before your face, you exclaim, “Stop! Go back! I think I saw her!” Yes, you recognized her instantly. How is that possible?

There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times that sheds light on how the brain encodes and stores facial memories. Here are some of the highlights...

Two Caltech biologists, Le Chang and Doris Y. Tsao, experimented on macaque monkeys to see how the brain responds to facial images. (Their recognition system seems to be very similar to ours.) They found that:

● “The face recognition system consists of face cells grouped into patches of at least 10,000 each.

● There are six of these patches on each side of the brain, situated on the cortex, or surface, just behind the ear.

● When the image of a face hits the eye’s retina, it’s converted into electric signals.

● These signals pass through five or six sets of neurons and are processed at each stage before they reach the face cells.

● The face cells receive information about the shape, dimensions and features of a face.

● 50 such dimensions are required to identify a face.”

When a monkey looked at a face, the biologists were able to reconstruct the facial features, just by monitoring the pattern in which the monkey's face cells were firing. Take a look at the images in the New York Times article. It’s amazing how similar these reconstructed images are to the real ones.


The finding are, at this time unconfirmed in other labs. But this could be a monumental breakthrough. I’m excited to see if this will lead to new ways we can help those with ASD perceive facial expressions. That would be a fantastic discovery indeed!

If you’d like to learn more about how the autistic brain works, I provide online education specifically for families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). My focus is on applying neuroscience and psychology to improve your relationships. And if you have specific issues you need help with, you might qualify for online therapy as well. Contact my office and schedule a session.

The Big Reason Why You Shouldn’t Try to Live Without Regrets

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Many talk about living with no regrets, but what does that really mean and is it possible or even desirable – this blog post examines these important questions.Regrets are commonly viewed as something bad…something to be avoided at all cost. Perhaps you’ve seen the slogan #NoRegrets. It’s a hashtag that’s used daily on social media. Perhaps you’ve even said, “I want to live without any regrets!”

Is it even possible to live without regrets? More importantly, is it desirable?

Truth be told, you can’t do everything you’ve dreamed of doing. It’s just not humanly possible. There’s not enough time, resources or energy to accomplish it all.

Instead, your life consists of a series of choices that you have to make. And because you’re happy with some choices, you will let other options slip away.

You might come to regret some of these choices. That’s normal! However, these regrets could haunt you if you look back and fantasize that the option that got away would have been so much better. And if you don’t learn to be happy with your choices, that regret will follow you throughout your life.

People believe that if they’re not perfectly happy, they’re depressed, or that they don't have a good life. On the contrary, to have regrets means you’ve fully engaged in life and made tough choices.

Of course, many regrets come from mistakes we’ve made. No matter how much we wish them away, the fact remains you’ve made a mistake. The problem comes when you wallow in the misery of reliving the mistake over and over again.

It would be so much better to look at the mistake as a learning experience and view it as a gift that teaches you something vital about yourself. Learn and move on. Stop second-guessing yourself. (I’ll be sharing some of my own regrets and what I learned from them in my upcoming book. Sign up for my newsletter to keep up-to-date on its release.)

Adopting a more positive attitude toward choices not taken will free you from living a paralyzed life overshadowed by negative feelings of regrets. So rather than living with no regrets, a more attainable goal would be to make peace with our regrets. Acknowledge them and move on.

Would you like to hone your skills for making choices that bring the greatest success and happiness? Online counseling may be exactly what you’re looking for. If you qualify, I’d love to help you learn to lead a rich and satisfying life. Please feel free to contact my office and schedule a session.

Women Entrepreneurs – Are You Afraid of Tooting Your Own Horn?

Monday, July 24, 2017


Business woman at meetingLook! The incredible invisible woman! She runs a successful company, has great friends and a loving family, but no one really hears about it. In spite of her accomplishments, she fades into the background by never taking true ownership of all the amazing things she has done.
 
Does that sound familiar? Do you find yourself deflecting attention, downplaying your accomplishments, or not taking full credit for your ideas?
 
I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. I was speaking with a married couple who ran a business together. I asked them to tell me their official business titles. Although the wife had started the business five years before the husband joined her, she told me she was a “Sales Associate.” The husband’s answer? He called himself the “Vice President.”
 
There was nothing wrong with what the wife said. She was an associate in the business, and she sold the product. But she did not own the fact that she ran a successful business.
 
Why don’t women give themselves the credit they deserve? A number of factors contribute to this tendency. From childhood girls are taught to work together, to build a community, to support others, all without being taught how to communicate about their accomplishments. Boys are usually encouraged to talk about personal goals and achievements, but that lesson often gets forgotten when raising girls.
 
Women also tend to fear being known as “not nice.” They avoid saying or doing things that could be viewed as aggressive or selfish. Unfortunately, when a woman touts her successes, it is often seen as bragging. So they put their ideas and victories in the background, not talking about them or even acknowledging them. When they do talk about their accomplishments, it is generally framed as a group achievement rather than an individual achievement.
 
Why should you learn to more effectively communicate about your accomplishments? Here are four reasons:

  1. Your business will grow. Leveraging your success and accomplishments is one of the best ways to continue to build your business. 
  2. Your relationships with your employees will improve. Resentment develops when you feel you are not being recognized. This resentment does not go unnoticed, and can lead to strained relationships with those around you. When you allow yourself to be recognized and appreciated, your relationships will benefi
  3. Other people will benefit. Did you ever think that concealing your true self deprives other people of your talents? It does! When others see who you really are and what you have and can accomplish, they can truly appreciate you and benefit by your talents. It also gives people a chance to rejoice with you in your success. Let others be happy for you – it will bring them joy, too.
  4. You invest in yourself. By expressing your accomplishments, you remind yourself and others of your worth. You will surround yourself with people who appreciate you instead of people who need you to appreciate them. This creates an energizing flow between people, just as wealth invested creates more wealth.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the amazing things you have done. The world needs what you have to offer, so learn to communicate about you effectively! If you could use some help getting past social barriers to promote yourself in the best way possible, please contact my office. I have an office in Jantzen Beach, and I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Entrepreneurs – Nurture Your Creativity Even If You’re Not “Creative”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Nurture Your Creativity Even If You’re Not “Creative” How would you describe the creative process? Difficult, isn’t it? The very concept of creativity, coming up with something innovative and original, makes something as structured as a “process” sound counterintuitive.

Perhaps you don't feel like you’re very creative. Maybe you see yourself as the practical problem-solver, the roll-up-your-sleeves kind of person…

The thing is you don’t have to be an eccentric or an artist in order to be creative. And as a business owner, it would be a mistake to assign the task of creativity to others because of a perceived lack of creativity on your part. What if all it took was hard work, determination and time?

You are probably more creative than you give yourself credit. Creativity is at the foundation of entrepreneurship. The ability of an entrepreneur to generate new ideas that have practical, real-world application is the foundation of countless business start-ups.

Being a creative entrepreneur goes beyond just creating new products and ideas. Even in you work in a family business that has been providing the same products or services for generations, you still need to be creative. A person with a flexible, creative mind is also going to be adept at improving current products, services and systems. You can be on the lookout for new and different ways to improve your business. Perhaps your contribution to the family business could be finding a new niche or effectively utilizing an existing one.

Creativity when linked with entrepreneurship requires more than just an interesting idea. There are a lot of good ideas out there, but if you want to build a successful business you need a process that will allow you to support and properly execute that idea.

How can you enhance your creative process?

Schedule time to be creative. Instead of waiting for creativity to magically appear, choose a problem, challenge, or goal you want to tackle and give yourself a deadline. Then schedule time in your calendar to work on it, using the following suggestions.

Identify and learn about your subject.
Understanding your topic will contribute to your ability to think creatively about it. Thinking creatively involves looking at your “problem” from multiple angles, considering all of the ins and outs. Be willing to look at the situation without previous bias. Also, look for examples of success that you can learn from, whether in your industry or outside of it.

Think from a new perspective. This is the step in which your new idea starts to take shape. Be willing to go out of your comfort zone during this step. Find a new approach to your task without limiting yourself. Allow yourself free reign of thought, don’t “edit” yourself, since that only hinders your creative process. At this point there are no stupid ideas!

Let your subconscious mind go to work.
Now begins the “mulling” stage. Let your idea sit for a while, allowing your subconscious to continue working on the problem. Surprisingly, this is often one of the most important stages of a creative process. You will often return with a fresh perspective, ready to continue.

Problem solve.
During this stage you are working on making your idea practical. It’s once again important that you don’t limit yourself, but this is the stage where you start streamlining your idea into a more workable package. This is where you start thinking about your idea as something that could actually be implemented.

Think critically. Now is the time to edit yourself. Look at the problem and your solution, and assess its viability. Ask someone whose opinion you value to try to find holes in your solution. Because you may be emotionally attached to idea, it can be difficult to critique it on your own without bias.

Critical thinking is the end of your creative process, now it is time to implement any viable ideas left. Once again you don’t have to be especially “creative” to implement this process, all you have to do is show up.

What if you have a tangled problem and the more you think about it the more stuck you feel? You might benefit from a session with a therapist. As surprising as it may sound, I’ve had many business epiphanies occur in my office over the years. Please contact my office to set up an appointment. I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we can meet in person or I offer online therapy for those residing in Oregon or Washington states if that is more convenient for you.

What Scientists Are Learning About Exercise and Your Brain

Monday, July 17, 2017


Older couple riding bikesDo you exercise regularly? No doubt you’ve heard of all the benefits. Exercise is good for all kinds of things like lowering your risk of heart disease, helping you lose weight, and maintaining your overall health. It also helps you emotionally by releasing endorphins that help regulate your mood.
 
Exercise also helps protect your memory and thinking ability. How? By literally changing your brain!
 
Researchers have found that exercise can change the size of your brain. Regular exercise has been found to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that plays an important role in memory and learning. It does this via a process called neurogenesis, or the birth of new brain cells. Exercise can double or triple the number of new cells in the hippocampus. These new cells translate to a significantly better ability to learn new things and remember experiences.
 
A better memory and learning ability is beneficial for your life now, but it is also helpful over the long-term. In Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the hippocampus is one of the first parts of the brain to suffer damage. A larger hippocampus can help delay the symptoms of these diseases as you get older.
 
It is of note that research finds aerobic exercise to be the most beneficial form of exercise to boost the size of the hippocampus. This is exercise that gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and the sweat running. Resistance training and balance exercises did not produce the same results.
 
Exercise also helps you sleep better. A number of chronic physical and mental health problems are caused by insufficient sleep, one of which is poor memory. Your brain cleans up while you sleep. There are studies that show that during sleep, the space between brain cells enlarge, allowing toxins to flush out. This research suggests that not sleeping allows toxins to build up, possibly ultimately triggering brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
 
Have you noticed that your thinking ability is negatively affected when you are feeling stressed or anxious? Exercise is a huge help in improving your mood, and reducing stress and anxiety. When your stress levels are under control, your cognitive abilities greatly improve.
 
Hopefully you already have a healthy routine that incorporates regular exercise. The recommendation for exercise is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That is just 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Moderate exercise includes walking, swimming, biking, or a sport like tennis.
 
If you are having trouble motivating yourself to keep up an exercise routine, or even start one, then try getting your spouse or a friend involved. Ask them to go with you. It will hold you accountable and make the experience fun! Also, start small. Try a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood at first. Then add more time and distance.
 
Schedule exercise like you would a business meeting. You don’t cancel on your colleagues or clients, so don’t cancel on yourself. Make it a priority, and your brain will benefit!
 
Exercise is only one part of staying healthy and balanced. Make sure to sign-up for my newsletter, Enriching Your Life, to stay up-to-date on new findings that impact your health and wellness. Simply enter your information in the box on the left to start receiving your copy.

Read more on my website: Holistic Health.

Three Surprising Scientific Findings about Autism You Might Not Know…

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Every study on autism spectrum disorder is bringing us closer to understanding it, so here are some recent findings that you may not have heard of yet…There is a lot we don’t know about autism, but every study is bringing us closer to understanding its cause and the why it affects people so differently. In an effort to keep you up-to-date, here are some recent findings that you may not have heard of yet:

1. Scientific American reports that “autism and schizophrenia may be independent outcomes of the same genetic syndrome.”

Both conditions are associated with the deletion of a stretch of DNA on chromosome 22. Carrie Bearden, professor of psychiatry, biobehavioral sciences and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles found, “Up to 30 percent of individuals missing this region, called 22q11.2, develop a psychotic disorder (schizophrenia). Up to 50 percent are diagnosed with autism.” (Does that mean someone with autism will develop schizophrenia later in life? Not at all.) What researches are now concentrating on is finding the biological causes of the features of these two conditions and discovering why they trigger the behaviors they do.

2. Generally, the earliest parents notice the first signs of autism is age 1, however MRI scans can see it in the brain much earlier than that.

According to Heather Hazlett, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD), enlargement of the brain seems to correlate with the arrival of autistic symptoms.

3. 50% of those with autism also have alexithymia, a condition defined by a difficulty understanding and identifying one’s own emotions.

Recognizing emotion depends in part on reading peoples’ faces. Those with autism often avoid looking into other people’s eyes, which contributes to their difficulty detecting emotions. Interestingly, if they don’t have alexithymia, they scan the eyes and mouth in a pattern similar to those without autism.
By contrast, people with alexithymia (with our without autism) look at faces for a typical amount of time, but scan the eyes and mouth in altered patterns.

Ongoing research is vital. The more we understand autism, the better our treatments will be. If you’d like to learn more, I provide online education specifically for how families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can apply neuroscience and psychology to improve their relationships. And if you have specific issues you need help with, you might qualify for online therapy as well. Contact my office and schedule a session.

Take a Deep Breath – You’ll Feel Better

Monday, July 10, 2017


Woman sitting on park bench relaxingWhen you were a kid, did your parents tell you to take long, deep breaths to help calm you down when you were upset?  As an adult, you may have noticed that popular practices like meditation, yoga and mindfulness, incorporate deep breathing. Even if you’ve never consciously thought about it, do you find yourself controlling your breathing when trying to combat anger or anxiety?

Why is concentrated deep breathing such a big deal? Our breathing patterns do much more than simply keep us alive. Here are just a few of the things deep breathing can do for you:

  • Strengthen the immune system and detoxify the body

  • Relieve pain

  • Reduce stress and blood pressure

  • Strengthen abdominal and intestinal muscles

  • Aid in healthy sleep patterns

  • Increase energy levels

It is fascinating to see how the different systems in our minds and bodies are so intertwined. Deep breathing releases endorphins, those feel-good, natural painkillers created by your own body. When practicing deep breathing, the movement of the diaphragm helps remove toxins from the organs, promoting better blood flow. Better blood flow and deeper breaths mean more oxygen coursing through the body. Oxygen provides energy, so that increase in oxygen in your body equates to a higher energy level for you!

Why is it that taking a deep breath is so effective in relieving stress and anxiety? Researchers recently conducted a study on mice (check out the New York Times write-up on the research study) that showed taking deep breaths is calming because it doesn’t activate the neurons that communicate with the brain’s arousal center. In contrast, shorter, shallower breaths activate neurons that throw the brain into a state of anxiety.

Breathing slowly and mindfully, activates the hypothalamus, connected to the pituitary gland in the brain, to send out chemicals that inhibit stress-producing hormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body. Hormones are also secreted that decrease blood pressure and heart rate.

Are you ready to start breathing deeply now? As simple as it sounds, breathing mindfully takes practice. When under stress, we often take shallow breaths, not using our full lung capacity.

You want to breathe from your diaphragm. Try this exercise:

Sit up straight and place your hands on your belly, just above your belly button. Let your fingertips touch lightly. Exhale fully through your mouth. Breath in deeply through your nose and into your belly, so your fingertips start to spread apart. Hold your breath for two to five seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Match the length of the inhale with the length of the exhale. Continue breathing in this manner for five to ten minutes.


Try to practice your breathing technique daily. The secret is simply to breathe, deeply and often. In addition, focusing on your breathing during physical activities, such as exercise, can help you become more mindful of your body.

Sometimes you need more than deep breathing to combat your anxiety. I can work with you to reduce your anxiety and get the most out of your life! Please contact my office to set up an appointment.  I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we can meet in person or I offer online therapy for those residing in Oregon or Washington states if that is more convenient for you.

Keep that ‘Summer Vacation Feeling’ Going with your Aspie Loved Ones

Wednesday, July 05, 2017


Summertime is the time for vacations, fun in the sun, and getting away from it all to relax. You should definitely make time for it this year. I know I’m really looking forward to my time off in August!   But I do remember the crazy-making times I spent getting my family ready for vacation, when the kids were young. It’s a real struggle getting our Aspies (loved ones with Asperger’s) out the door.   They obsess about packing and where you’re going to stay. Yet once you're seated on the plane and your Aspie can sleep or read, they begin to participate and maybe even enjoy the vacation. (To help you prepare for your trip, you can read some stress free travel tips here.)   Our Aspies seem to have fun on vacation. And what’s really surprising is that your communications go well – better than they have in years. You actually start believing in your relationship again. You begin to let your guard down…   And then wham! Reality hits you in the face. As soon as you get home, the stress and confusion begins all over again, maybe even worse than it was before. What's up?   Vacations do take us away from the demands of ordinary life and that's why they’re relaxing. But for the Aspie the return to the "real world" is even more stressful than before they left.   You’re not alone in experiencing this. In my practice, I’m often asked: “Why do we communicate well on vacation but not otherwise?” It makes sense if you think about it. You’re not being distracted by day-to-day demands.   Do you have some good ideas for easing back after vacations? Or perhaps you’ve figured out how to get out the door without all of the fighting. Please share your strategies with our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD meetup. Join the free teleconference on Thursday, July 20th at 3:00 PM PST. It’s entitled: “Why do we communicate well on Vacation but not otherwise?” It will help you enjoy your re-entry into life after vacation.   If you’re seeking specific information on ASD, please consider my online education or online therapy. It’s convenient and cost effective.Summertime is the time for vacations, fun in the sun, and getting away from it all to relax. You should definitely make time for it this year. I know I’m really looking forward to my time off in August!

But I do remember the crazy-making times I spent getting my family ready for vacation, when the kids were young. It’s a real struggle getting our Aspies (loved ones with Asperger’s) out the door.

They obsess about packing and where you’re going to stay. Yet once you're seated on the plane and your Aspie can sleep or read, they begin to participate and maybe even enjoy the vacation. (To help you prepare for your trip, you can read some stress free travel tips here.)

Our Aspies seem to have fun on vacation. And what’s really surprising is that your communications go well – better than they have in years. You actually start believing in your relationship again. You begin to let your guard down…

And then wham! Reality hits you in the face. As soon as you get home, the stress and confusion begins all over again, maybe even worse than it was before. What's up?

Vacations do take us away from the demands of ordinary life and that's why they’re relaxing. But for the Aspie the return to the "real world" is even more stressful than before they left.

You’re not alone in experiencing this. In my practice, I’m often asked: “Why do we communicate well on vacation but not otherwise?” It makes sense if you think about it. You’re not being distracted by day-to-day demands.

Do you have some good ideas for easing back after vacations? Or perhaps you’ve figured out how to get out the door without all of the fighting. Please share your strategies with our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD meetup. Join the free teleconference on Thursday, July 20th at 3:00 PM PST. It’s entitled: “Why do we communicate well on Vacation but not otherwise?” It will help you enjoy your re-entry into life after vacation.

If you’re seeking specific information on ASD, please consider my online education or online therapy. It’s convenient and cost effective.

Neuroscience in the Court System - Are 18 Year Olds Really Adults?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Neuroscience in the Court System Do you think an 18 year old is an adult? It’s commonly accepted that by the age of 18, a young man or a woman is an adult with adult privileges and adult consequences. For example, if you commit a crime at the age of 18 you’ll be tried as an adult in the court of law.

Yet, neuroscience shows that the brain is not fully developed by then. The process for making new connections and pruning unnecessary neurons continues well into the early twenties. Surprisingly, there’s an explosion of connectivity occurring after the age of 18. No wonder these young adults often make unwise decisions!

Earlier I wrote about Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University, who found that “cognitive skills usually form by age 16 while psychosocial maturity — measured by impulsivity, risk perception, thrill-seeking, resistance to peer influence — doesn’t begin until age 18, steadily increasing through the early 20s.”

A recent New York Times article considers the impact this is having on the criminal court system and what alternatives we might have. According to the article, “Young adults 18 to 24 make up 10 percent of the population, but they account for 28 percent of all arrests (2.1 million in 2015), a rate higher than that of any other age group.”

The article also reports on a new experiment based on neuroscience. A number of cities are now hosting Young Adult Courts – a hybrid of adult/juvenile justice systems. (San Francisco was the first. Now there are more across the U.S. as well as in England and Wales.)

The court staff is trained in neuroscience by a clinical psychologist, so they can apply this science to offenders between the ages of 18-24. They follow up by providing these immature “adults” with supervision, education, and support as they weekly check in and report their progress.

Rather than having a permanent black mark on their record, which can adversely change their entire future prospects, these young adults are getting help to mature and develop better decision-making skills. This a definite WIN!

Understanding how the brain works is fundamental to solving many of the issues young ones face today. I’m fascinated especially by how empathy is formed in some individuals while it isn’t formed in others. I’ll let you in on a secret…I’m in the process of writing my next book on the topic of empathy. I’m anxious to share with you what I’ve learned.

Did you know I provide online education specifically for how entrepreneurial couples and families with ASD can apply neuroscience and psychology to improve their relationships? And if you have personal issues you need help with, you might qualify for online therapy as well. In our busy, hectic lives, the Internet can make counseling easier and more accessible. Why not see if it’s right for you?



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