Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.
The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.
Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.
It is tradition, at the beginning of each year, to set New Year Resolutions. We have great intentions for lasting change but soon lose motivation and drive to complete them. Consequently, most people will stop trying to set habits to avoid the disappointment of failure. There has to be a better way to see real change that actually work, isn’t there?
Enter the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. As the byline states, this book will help you “build good habits and break bad ones.” Sounds simple!
The key to making changes in your life that are successful is to take a new perspective of change from the one’s we are used to. The problem isn’t us. It is the systems we surround ourselves with that fail us and result in feelings of failure. See big idea #2 above.
The book lists 5 Big Ideas about how to create effective habits. You will have to read the entire book to get all the details for each big idea or you can read this summary here (Link) or watch a YouTube video here (Link). I have affiliate connections to there resources…
My focus for this blog article is on big idea #3: The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. Repeats this big idea to yourself a couple of times. Let it soak in. It is possible that everything you have tried to do to change your life has been wrong. You might have blamed others for the way you are or blame your bad luck or situation. These could be serious issues that make your habit difficult but it is not the final reason. Or, as I like to say, “it is a reason but isn’t a good excuse.”
Real change occurs from the inside out. This is true of parenting, marital relationships, business endeavors, or anything you attempt to do in your life. A habit, by definition, is a the tendency to behave or act in a regular manner. Habits require very little energy because it has become an automatic way of reacting. Initially, they take a lot of energy and practice but soon become reflexes that take little to now thought to initiate. It is their strength and their weaknesses when we try to break them.
Many habits start out of a reaction to traumatic situations. They start off as ways of coping with stress and pain, splitting off parts of ourselves to manage or protect from further pain. This may be a very “normal way to react in a very abnormal situation.” Unfortunately, traumatic habits can end up being “abnormal behaviors” in a new, more “normal situation.” The ways you had to behavior in an alcoholic home, for example, may not serve you will now, in a healthier relationship and home.
Find a way to change or develop new habits can become extremely urgent to maintain a healthy relationship and avoid new forms of pain in our lives.
One place to start is with you. Work on your character issues instead of waiting for others to change. The only thing you have 100% guarantee of change is through your own growth. You can change other people. You can coerce them, threaten them, or manipulate them but that will always backfire on you. Stick with you and the big idea working on who you want to become.
Start with a vision of what character traits you wish for yourself and picture how these traits will bear positive fruit in your life. It is just imagination so you run no risk of disappointment at this stage. Be sure to write this vision down. It may change from day to day but continue to modify it till you have something that truly inspires you. People have motivation for things they really want and desire. Make this idea of a new you very attractive!
Problem are destined to get in the way of this new habit of being you. That is a good thing. What is predictable is preventable. Predict what will get in the way, how you will look your motivation, who will try to stop you, what limitations might pop up…Set a plan for how you will encounter them before they show up so you are ready.
Small changes every day will reap big results in the end. Focus on a 1% change every day. That’s not a lot, right? You can do one thing to be a new, better version of you each day. Taking on too much, too soon, will choke out your efforts.
Use the power of gratitude for positive things in your life every day. Science has demonstrated that gratitude changes the very structure of our brain and enhances motivation to healthy, positive behaviors.
The effects of COVID-19 has resulted in many business and services moving to remote work. This has many benefits and costs for society and this is especially true in the field of mental health.
Traditionally mental health was done face-to-face, in a office with a licensed therapist. At times, it took place in the clients home, when they were unable to come to an office, due to health or lack of transportation. In rare cases therapy took place over the phone when all other options were not possible. Today, all of this has reversed with online options being the first choice and in office being last.
In reality, online options for mental health has been researched for many years, although the application of it was rare. As technology has increased, and federal and state laws have adjusted, we are recognizing as online or TeleMental Health works.
Information from a recent conference on TeleMental Health reveals 4200 articles show the safety and effectiveness of this modality.
Consequently, many clients are finding that the convenience of doing online options outweigh the disadvantages. Some of these advantages include not having to find baby sisters, more flexible appointment times, quicker access to help when needed, reasonable rates for therapy, and better time management.
Supportive research shows TeleMental Health to be effective in addressing a wide variety of mental health issues and concerns, compatible to in-person care, and is creating new models of care through the use of powerful technologies.
New models of therapy maybe be an example of “fighting fire with fire” where TeleMental Health/technology rises to the challenge of increased mental health and substance abuse problems in a world that is locked down and social isolated. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control: “Overall, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic† (26.3%), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%).”
New models of care should not result in lower standards of care. TeleMental Health must follow the highest standards to deliver personal, confidential, and effective treatment. This involves appropriate informed consent, intake and assessment, progress note documentation, mandatory reporting, and duty to warn/protect.
Ron Huxley is a licensed marriage and family therapist with 30 years of experiences. He uses traditional and non traditional mental health models to provide the highest level of care to individuals and families. He has been the director of community-based mental health, provided direct and online training, and was involved in the early research and delivery models of telemental health with organizations such as the TeleBehavioral Health Institute (TBHI) and works with national institutions, such as the National Center on Adoption and Permanency.
You can schedule an online TeleMental Health appointment with Ron immediately or go take an online course on anxiety and trauma at FamilyHealer.tv
Unpleasant emotions include feelings of shame, guilt, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, fear, and grief, to name a few.
The TED Talk speaker explores how emotional mastery is demonstrated by our ability to move past/through these unpleasant emotions and not be shut down or run from them.
By “move through,” she refers to the neuroscience idea that when an emotional feeling gets triggered, chemicals flood the body, activating bodily sensations that can put into a survival state of fight, flight, and freeze. Interestingly, we experience these unpleasant emotions in our bodies before we cognitively understand them. The body always reacts first, fast, and defensively. If unpleasant feelings come from a traumatic event, we will develop emotional programs that will be set in the body to protect us from other unpleasant feelings or situations. We may make a conscious vow to never “trust people again,” be put “into an embarrassing situation ever again,” or “never take such a risk like that again” to further protect ourselves from such unpleasantness. Emotional programs (from the unconscious body-mind) and cognitive vows (from the conscious thinking-mind) paint us into a corner. Although they protect, they also prevent us from growth and success.
The goal is to “move through” unpleasant emotions and not avoid or dissociate from them. To do this, we have to “surf” the wave of bodily chemical sensations and stand up on the board of our own conscious choices. That unpleasant wave of chemicals only lasts 60-90 seconds. That is less time that a song on the radio, explains the psychologist from the TED Talk. Unpleasant emotions rush and then flush from the body.
It is the fight or flight from unpleasant emotions that make the waves more significant and more threatening than they are, and the vicious cycle of the more chemical reaction and mental obsessions continue.
How do we “move through” emotionally unpleasant feelings? The psychologists claim that the uncomfortable sensations are like a wave of chemicals that go through us like a wave. It lasts only 60-90 seconds and then dissipates. Rush and then flushed by the body.
Different unpleasant emotions have different patterns of waves: Grief has waves after waves. Anger is perhaps a big roaring wave. Sadness is a slow, lingering wave. Shame a sneaky, rip curl of a wave. But all of them come and go. We can get back on the beach and feel stable again. The beach is the place of acceptance in this metaphor.
The speaker’s recommendation is to learn to surf the unpleasant waves, let them rise, and then let them retreat. Stop fighting them, fleeing them, or freezing in the middle of them. With consistent practice, insights into life and your character will develop. The speaker describes how we will be better able to pursue the goals you dreamed about, have courageous conversations, and feel more conformable in your skin. Surfing them won’t take a lifetime. It only takes a moment. The present now where change always starts.
In order to develop a more resilient sense of self, Ron Huxley has created a new series called “Reflections for Resiliency”. The reflections are free to use for your inner development and self-care. This is a sample of what you will get in a new course on resilience at FamilyHealer.tv, coming Fall 2020.
In this latest blog on personal reflections, Ron Huxley provides direction on how to deal with perfectionism. Use the affirmations to find balance in the process and not the outcome. Visualize a different mindset about your expectations for yourself and others.
Use a journal along side each reflection to write our thought own thoughts and feelings. Answer the Self-Reflection Questions at the end to help you apply them to your life.
In order to develop a more resilient sense of self, Ron Huxley has created a new series called “Reflections for Resiliency”. The reflections are free to use for your inner development and self-care. This is a sample of what you will get in a new course on resilience at FamilyHealer.tv, coming Fall 2020.
In this first blog on personal reflections, Ron Huxley provides direction on living a worry-free life. Use them as proclamations over your life and shift the atmosphere of your home and relationships. Use a journal along side each reflection to write our thought own thoughts and feelings. Answer the Self-Reflection Questions at the end to help you apply them to your life.
Be sure to share this blog post with your family and friends…
I Live A Worry-Free Life
There is no better way to live than to live a life full of joy, health, peace, and happiness.
I choose to live a worry-free life because I know that anxiety crowds out productivity. I can and do plan for the future, but I realize that the only moment I can control is the present.
I use the creativity and wisdom I have gained from my experiences to make the best plans I can for the future. I realize, however, that even the most carefully laid plans are just ideas – figments of my imagination susceptible to factors outside my control. By acknowledging that I have no control over the future, I free myself from the dead end of worry.
I choose to conserve my mental and emotional energy by keeping my focus on the reality of what is in front of me. I make the most of this moment and trust that I will be able to handle the next when it comes.
When my focus is on this moment, I am alert and able to recognize the people who are invaluable to me. When my focus is on this moment, I am able to take advantage of new opportunities that come my way and create a life that is rich and rewarding.
By letting go of worry, I free myself to use my energy to be productive in the here and now.
Am I wasting time fretting about something that is outside my control? Why?
What do I realistically gain by worrying?
What can I do, today, to help me live a worry-free life?
A parent coach is a professional who helps parents cultivate better relationships with their children. A coach provides insight, education, and direction that is concrete and practical. Although similar to therapy, coaching focuses more on short-term plans than processing emotions or working through past traumas. It doesn’t mean that parent coaching can’t provide this type of processing, but it is not its primary focus.
Parenting coaches help in a variety of ways:
Behavioral problems help parents find strength-based ways to address children’s challenges, such as sibling rivalry, defiance, talking back, aggression, running away, meltdowns, and more.
Parenting self-care, managing adult stressors, and find balance in work, family, and social life.
Cope with transitions and crises that occur in life and the world. With all of its effects on schooling, work, and isolation, our current pandemic is a common crisis all parents must learn to manage.
Developmental and emotional concerns in children need expert insight and detailed plans when depression, anxiety, or delays present themselves.
Any family structure can utilize parent coaching. The traditional family of yesterday is the nontraditional of today. It can include two parents families, divorced parents, single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster and adoptive parenting, same-sex parents, and multigenerational families.
Coaches typically have a master’s degree or higher in education or family counseling or completed a parent coaching certification. They should have experience in the specific area of specialty, such as aggressive teenagers or adoption.
Coaching sessions are usually briefer than traditional therapy with 1 to 5 sessions. Each session has a specific outcome with homework to test “in the field” and then feedback and further revision until a parent feels change is happening.
Ron Huxley is a licensed marriage and family therapist with 30 years of experience in parenting, family therapy, and specialized clinical issues, such as anxiety and trauma. He has served as the director of several clinical programs that utilized a coaching model. He is the author of the book “Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting” and founder of the FamilyHealer.tv online school. You can set up a coaching or therapy appointment with him now. Just click here to schedule a time.
Teens often feel insecure and anxious about growing up. While this might not be surprising to you, but most teens act as if this was not true. Everyone understands the typical developmental angst that accompanies the teen world. This pandemic is causing everyone, regardless of their age, to feel uncertainty and angst as well.
Teen’s innate drive for independence causes them to behave as if they are superhuman. They talk about what they will do when they are old enough to be on their own, and although they can’t wait to be an adult, the truth is that they are frightened. Feelings of insecurity will crack their thin shell of confidence. Parents see these cracks in their safe expressions of sarcasm and anger. Anger is a useful cover for the insecurities in their hearts.
The challenge for parents is to increase teenagers’ feelings of real confidence to succeed in life. This confidence comes from experience, and experience is filled with failures. Failure and disappointment are part of the learning cycle of life.
Parents can model this reality and cope with it to provide their teen with an example of mature adulthood. Parents don’t need to “fake” toughness to their teens. Be willing to confess times when you were unsuccessful and what it taught you. It may not have been that long ago!
When teens fail, reframe it as a normal part of life that teaches us how not to behave again in the future. This is the definition of “wisdom.” If your teens make a mistake and they will… Don’t make a personal issue of it? Stay focused on solutions. You have just discovered one solution that won’t work in the future. Work on finding solutions together and be a strong cheerleader for your teen as they learn.
Teens may have the “hardware” of adulthood, but they lack the “software” of experience that we all have to download through experience. All of their experience has been of being a child and problem solving as a child. The adult world is new, and even if they don’t admit it, scary. Don’t be surprised if their actions and reactions are childish.
Parents’ challenge is to keep from overreacting to behaviors and, instead, teach them the skills necessary for life. Despite their isolation and one-word responses, try to spend time with them, have open conversations about life, don’t judge or criticize their ideas, explore their hopes and dreams, and model emotions and thoughts transparently. Most importantly, be patient with teens. Remember what it was like for you as a teen. No, remember! The mind has a built-in defense that causes us to remember the good and ignore the bad. Please dig deep and meditate on what it felt like to be a teen. This will give you more empathy for them, and empathy will provide you with the patience to teach them.
Emotional Intelligence is one of the most important attributes of success at home and school (and later in life, in business). This is because EQ is about being self-aware and socially sophisticated. The better children are at understanding and managing the world of emotion and social interactions, the better they will be at controlling anxiety.
Another way of looking at EQ is to say that “emotional intelligence is being able to feel an emotion without having to act on it.”
Emotional IQ Training
Howard Gardner, a psychologist at the Harvard School of Education, has suggested that there are many different types of intelligence, not just academic (linguistic and math) ones. He refers to these as talents that all children possess, male or female. Being able to use these talents is what makes people successful and satisfied in life. Peter Salovey, another psychologist, refines Gardner’s talents into five main domains of emotional intelligence:
Knowing one’s emotions
Recognizing emotions in others
and Handling relationships.
In order to help boy and girls develop all of these areas of emotional intelligence and use it to cope with stress and anxiety, we have to intentionally implement “learning opportunities” into their daily lives. The more skills that we provide our children in understanding their emotions, recognizing stress, and feeling confident to manage it, the more adept our children will be in finding freedom from fears and anxiety. It is the avoidance or lack of confidence emotionally that causes anxiety to be so intimidating.
Gender Differences In Emotional Intelligence
FACT: Girls are 2x as likely to develop anxiety than boys.
FACT: Boys use aggression to express most of their emotions.
Research has shown that girls develop language skills much sooner than boys and are more articulate when it comes to expressing themselves emotionally. This natural advantage and the de-emphasis on emotional training for boys, lead males to communicate their emotions behaviorally. This may be why so many boys get into fights, play competitive sports, or act aggressively towards others. It is their way of communicating their feelings. And anger is the socially acceptable spokesperson for all of those feelings, be they positive or negative.
Why, in our modern society, do we continue to see this pattern of emotional deficiency in boys? Is it simply a matter of biology and not something that we can control. Although nature is a significant part of personality and social/emotional development, I don’t believe that is the answer.
In most societies around the globe, girls receive more “training” on how to process a full range of emotions that do boys. Research proves that biological is not as powerful a reason for this as you might think. A lot has to do with nurture and modeling.
Research and common sense suggest that we give our sons undivided attention every day. This means full attention, not partial or half. Don’t engage in cooking, cleaning, reading or anything else that might detract from the attention given. Playing a game or working on a project, side-by-side, with minimal words is enough. Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Ph.D., in his book, The Measure of a Man: Becoming the Father You Wish Your Father Had Been, states that while men and women experience emotions similarly, they may share those emotions differently. Men, due to past Emotional IQ training, are used to indirectly communicating with one another. This is what, Dr. Shapiro calls “side-by-side” or “shoulder-to-shoulder” communication. Moms tend to prefer the more “face-to-face”, direct approach.
Dr. Shapiro talks about the different styles of communicating emotions by men and women: “Men have long been criticized for either having no feelings or having the wrong ones, or being unable to describe them. It is true that males in our society are trained to deny, ignore, cover up, and rise above feelings. However, we do have them all the time. It is important that we express our feelings to our children in male ways. It is customary for men to be most open, for example, while they are working on a joint project together (i.e., shoulder to shoulder).”
It is also important that mom’s and dads encourage boys to express the full range of emotions. Past social conditioning that only some emotions, namely anger, are acceptable need to be removed. All emotions are valid. Be receptive to a baby’s sadness and discomfort as well as his cooing and giggles. Ask toddlers and school-age boys if they are feeling sad or tired and empathize with those feelings. Tell older boys that it is normal to feel awkward or anxious and have open discussions about his relationships with girls, other boys, siblings, teachers, and family.
When boys do express themselves aggressively or act rambunctious, look below the anger. While it is true that boys, on the average, do play more aggressively, don’t let that prevent you from checking for underlying emotions of sadness or anxiety. Remember that acting out means just that. Boys often act out their feelings of hurt and loss. Labels those feelings for them if they are obvious or ask them about their feelings if they are not. Reflect on their behavior by stating, “You seem to be upset about this situation. I wonder if you are feelings hurt/sad/anxious by it.” Model complex feelings by admitting you often get angry when you feel these other emotions too. It is often difficult for young children to understand that people can have more than one emotion at a time.
Be willing to express your love and empathy openly and generously. Loving your son will not “baby” him, “spoil” him, or make him a “sissy.” It will make him more self-assured, confident, and secure. When a dad is openly affectionate toward his son, a very deep message about manhood and emotions is communicated. Tell your son that you love him as much as you wish. Give him hugs and take opportunities to play with him.
This still begs the question as to why girls are more likely to be anxious than boys. Aren’t they more socially trained to express feelings? Yes, but boys have one advantage over girls in this area…They tend to externalize their feelings whereas girls internalize it more. This results in girls being more anxious about their bodies, negatively affected by social ostracism, inadequate, sad and lonely.
Mental health data supports that girls are more like to miss school due to overwhelming feelings of sadness and contemplate suicide and/or engage in self-harm behaviors when situations feel more emotionally overwhelming. Helping them develop their EQ will be a powerful deterrent to these risk factors.
Expectations, Pressure, and Failure
There is a high correlation between children’s anxiety and parents high expectations. Parents want the best for their children but sometimes this can translate into unnecessary pressure on the child. Children who are pressured to perform and made to feel guilty or ashamed at not being the best are most likely to develop anxiety disorders. Parents need to take a look at themselves and their own drives to be perfect, look good to others, and issues around failure. They may be projecting their own “junk” onto their children. High expectations can lead to children making irrational conclusions about their failures. A child might state that “I failed my math test because I am dumb. I will always be dumb and I will never do well in math.” Parents need to be empathic when they hear these types of statements. Don’t criticise them for the irrationality. Help them redirect their perspectives with positive statements, such as: “You failed the test because it was a very hard test and you didn’t have much study time. You will do well next time and we will work on it together.”
EQ is NOT Innate
When children are born, they have neurons but no connections and so everything can feel stressful. The connections are created through experiences with parents and peers. Over time, through many, many experiences, children develop the skills they need to understand themselves and the social-emotional world around them. Allow them the safety to go through this process of trial and error. Be a coach to them as they learn. Don’t be too quick to tell them how to do something, manage friendship quarrels, or find solutions to frustrating situations.
Name Them to Tame Them
The best Emotional IQ strategies are the simplest. Putting names to feelings helps children communicate and master them. Fears and anxiety can appear so large and overwhelming that children don’t know how to cope. Giving them a name makes seem smaller and more manageable.
Parents can say “Anxiety wants to make you have a bad day and tell you that you can’t remember anything when you take a test. He’s such a pest, isn’t he?”
“It is very frustrating when your brother won’t share his video game with you.”
“Worry wants us to argue in the car about getting to school on time but let’s listen to the music instead.”
“When you get afraid, it makes your heart beat fast. Feel it? Good thing we can use our breathing exercises to slow it down. Let’s do it together.”
Using imaginative labels for anxiety and its entourage of characters (worry, fear, panic, frustration, perfectionism) helps children externalize their emotions and have more confidence to control them(selves).
Naming emotions are centered in the left hemisphere of the brain in a small region called Brocas Area. Our right hemisphere lacks the verbal labeling of the left but is able to process images and bodily sensations that go along with feelings. Naming our fears allows both hemispheres of the brain to work together. Strong emotions, like anxiety, panic and phobias will hijack the thinking brain as a protective function to real or perceived danger. Using words to describe them puts the thinking brain back in charge and sends signals to the body to be calm and peaceful.
Once a child learns to name their own emotions, they can better recognize emotions in others. This makes them skilled at handling anxiety, feeling confident, and being socially competent. A great combination!
EQ Habits for the home
Parents and children can use some simple habits to improve EQ and decrease anxiety:
1. Use a diary to describe one emotional experience per day.
2. Do “emotional weather” check-ins every morning to be more aware of our feelings states.
3. Practice identifying emotions in others nonverbal behavior and make a scavenger list of feelings to see how many you can spot per day.
4. Watch movies and call out the feelings spotted in others on the screen.
5. Write a list of negative feelings and then write down their opposites. Pick one positive and have a family plan to experience that through outings, research, etc.
6. Use dramatic play to act out feelings in puppets, artwork, music, poetry, dance/movement, character voices, fictional stories.
Where do we start?
The most natural place is the home. And the most natural person is a mom or dad. We need to be more conscious about what and how we are teaching emotional literacy to our children. Handling any and all emotions make us better equipped to tackle anxiety. Don’t sit passively by and wait till there is a big issue. Go after it now! If anxiety has already become a big problem, you can use Emotional IQ skills to uproot anxiety and build new, more adaptable reactions instead.
There is some interesting research on the link between depressed dads and its effects on their children. This supports much of the posts I have written on the importance of father/child bond. The research is summarized by Child-Psych.org at http://bit.ly/mvo6nu: “The current study used a nationally representative sample of fathers of one year-olds, 1,746 dads in total.
The men answered questions in four different areas: interactive play (e.g., peek-a-boo), speech and language interactions, reading to the child, and spanking. Whether or not the fathers had talked with their child’s pediatrician during the past year was also assessed. Seven percent of the fathers in the study reported being depressed during the past year. Seventy-seven percent of these dads also had spoken with the pediatrician over the past year… there were no differences between fathers that were not depressed and those that were in their reports of playing interactive games and singing songs/nursery rhymes with their children. Depressed dads were less likely to read to their one year-olds and much more likely to spank them.”
Conclusions of this study focused on the relationship between a fathers well-being and the child emotional and academic abilities later in life. As you might expect, the higher the depression in dad, the lower the functioning of the child. In addition, there is a connection between how aggressive dads were in their discipline. A higher percentage of dads spanked or acted out of anger with their children. Why do I keep harping on this topic? I want dads to be aware of and accept how vital there role is in the life of their children. I want others (moms and society in general) to be more mindful of the need to educate and support dads in this role. As men, we don’t get the same amount of formal or informal training to be parents as moms. More focus is needed for men to rise to the challenge of parenting.