Tag Archives: She

Study Finds Cigarettes ‘Trick’ Smokers’ Brains

New research shows that smokers are more susceptible to positive images of smoking, while more biased to negative images of smoking, including the health risks.
Researchers at the Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and Université de Montréal found that chronic smokers have altered emotional reactions when they are exposed to images — both negative and positive — associated with tobacco.“We observed a bias depending on how smoking is portrayed,” said Le-Anh Dinh-Williams, a student at the Centre de recherche de l’Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and the study’s first author.

“For example, the brains of the smokers in our study were more aroused by images that showed smoking in a positive light than by images that encouraged them to stop. They were also more affected by aversive non-smoking related images than by images of the specific negative consequences of smoking.”

In Canada and the U.S., approximately 20 percent of adults smoke cigarettes despite knowing its adverse effects, according to the researchers.

“We wanted to understand why knowing about the negative health impacts of tobacco does not prevent smokers from lighting up,” she said.

Using neuroimaging techniques, the researchers compared the emotional reactions of 30 smokers as they looked at aversive smoking-related images, such as lung cancer, compared to other aversive images — like an old man on his deathbed. They also had the smokers view positive smoking-related images, such as a smoker satisfying the urge to smoke.

The study helps explain why 70 to 95 percent of smokers who quit will, despite their best efforts, start smoking again within one year, according to the researchers.

“Many factors make it difficult for people to quit. Part of the explanation could certainly be because cigarettes ‘trick’ the brains of smokers,” said Stéphane Potvin, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and researcher at the Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal.

“Specifically, we discovered that the brain regions associated with motivation are more active in smokers when they see pleasurable images associated with cigarettes and less active when smokers are confronted with the negative effects of smoking.”

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Men And Women After Trauma: Coping With Differences

• Do men and women react differently after trauma? Yes.

• Does it mean one suffers more than the other? No.

• Do the differences confuse and often create tension for couples? Too often.

The Differences

What we find across cultures is that in the face of traumatic loss, women need to speak about what has happened and men need to do something about what has happened. In one scene from the devastation of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005, the women gathered, crying for their lost children while the men rebuilt the homes.

In their 2006 review of 25 years of research on sex differences in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Psychological Bulletin, David Tolin, and Edna Foa reported that although men have a higher risk for traumatic events, women suffer from higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. In their analysis, they suggest that the different rates of PTSD may actually be a function of the fact that men and women manifest their emotional pain in different ways.

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, women are more likely to have feelings of anxiety and depression, while men are more likely to express distress and depression in terms of irritability, anger and increased alcohol consumption.

Couple Response

Caught in the physical and emotional pain from a traumatic loss or event, couples often have very little patience for differences. It is hard for them to believe that their partner could feel different. It is even more difficult to believe that their partner could feel the same and react so differently.

When she suffered a miscarriage in the beginning of her fifth month, Claire was devastated. Then in her late 30’s, she was worried that this might have been her only chance to have a child. Even when she regained her strength, she was often unable to concentrate or sleep. She would ruminate and blame herself for waiting until her career was set before starting a family.

Claire was further upset by her husband John’s reaction. He was upset by the loss, but he seemed confident that there would be other chances. Claire wondered why he wasn’t blaming himself for their decision to wait to have kids. When she questioned him about this, he felt judged and blamed her for making it worse. They would end up fighting.

According to Dr. John Gray of Mars and Venus Starting Over, in the aftermath of the loss, both men and women need time to grieve. As such, it is often more common for women to blame themselves and for men to blame others.

Differences Don’t Equate to Lack of Love

If you find yourself struggling with your partner in the aftermath of a traumatic event, it does not mean that you don’t have a good relationship, or that you were never truly in love.

• Traumatic events are beyond what we ever expect. No one is prepared to respond.

• Differences in response don’t mean that as a couple you won’t cope or can’t heal.

If you take your time and give yourself and your partner a chance to grieve, cope and regulate stress in your own way and different ways, you will be able to use your relationship as an asset for coping.

• She joins a bereavement group at the church.

• He increases his workout schedule.

• She doesn’t want to socialize on the weekends, but he needs to get out—they settle on a movie date together.

Couple Considerations for Coping

• Everyone deals with trauma in their own way and in their own time – there is no right way.

• When in doubt don’t assume the worst about your partner – assume you don’t know.

• Interest and acceptance of your partner’s reactions invite sharing and empathy, which enhance healing.

• Being physically next to someone you love is a natural buffer for stress and emotional pain.

• Talking about the pain at times for her, valuing the shared silence for him—reflects the resilience of connection.

Sometimes the best-traveling companion in life is someone who sees and reacts to things in a way you would never have considered.

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What It Really Means To Be In Love

How to get past your own defenses and learn to build a real relationship?

While many of us may have sensed it intuitively, there is now science behind the statement that “Love is all you need.” A 75-year longitudinal study by Harvard researchers suggests that love is indeed a key to a happy and fulfilling life.

While love seems to be a universally valued attribute, defining it in behavioral terms can be a challenge. As the Harvard study’s lead researcher, Dr. George Vaillant, wrote of his team’s findings, two essential ingredients are proven to correlate with a happy existence: “One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

While many of us believe we would like to be in love, we face many hurdles in taking the actions that allow love to flow freely throughout our lives and relationships. We have many ways of defending ourselves against love and can struggle to give and receive love with ease, openness, and vulnerability.

With love being so closely connected to meaning and fulfillment, it’s valuable for each of us to define love as an action or series of actions we can take to bring us closer to the people we value. In a romantic context, some essential characteristics that fit the description of a loving relationship include:

• Expressions of affection, both physical and emotional.
• A wish to offer pleasure and satisfaction to another.
• Tenderness, compassion, and sensitivity to the needs of the other.
• A desire for shared activities and pursuits.
• An appropriate level of sharing of possessions.
• An ongoing, honest exchange of personal feelings.
• The process of offering concern, comfort, and outward assistance for the loved one’s aspirations.

Love includes feeling for the other that goes beyond any selfishness or self-interest on the part of the loved one. As such, love nurtures and has a positive effect on each person’s self-esteem and sense of well-being. Love never involves deception, because misleading another person fractures his or her sense of reality.

So how well do we meet these standards for being loving? When we think about a relationship that is meaningful to us, we have to ask:

• Do we both behave in ways that nurture each other?
• Do we take actions to make the other person feel good?
• Do we consider what lights that person up, separate from our own interests?

Too often, we think of love as an almost passive state of being, as opposed to a conscious choice we make. When we regard love as something we simply fall into, we can easily slip into routines with the person we value or lose a sense of separateness and respect. Instead, we view that person as a part of us. We then run the risk of creating a fantasy bond, an illusion of fusion in which real feelings of fondness and attraction are replaced by the form of being in a relationship. In other words, we come to see ourselves and our partner as a single unit. We then fall into roles rather than appreciating each other as individuals and experiencing the exciting, loving feelings that result.

A fantasy bond offers a false sense of security—the illusion that we are no longer alone. However, when we connect to someone in this way, we lose our sense of vitality, and we give up significant aspects of our relationship. The behavioral operations of love are replaced with a fantasy of being in love, which does not nurture either partner.

Relationships tend to go south when we stop taking actions that our partner would perceive as loving and instead start looking to our partner solely to meet our own needs. It’s important to distinguish emotional hunger from real love. Have you ever witnessed a parent hugging a child and wondered whether the hug was intended to comfort the child, offering reassurance and care, or to soothe the parent, taking something from the child? When we reach out to our partner, it can be valuable to examine whether our behaviors are for them or for ourselves. Are we looking to them to fulfill us in some way that is unfair to them? Are we hoping they will make up for an emptiness or hurt from our past?

A couple I’ve worked with recently recognized an example of this dynamic. The wife would often compliment her husband, but he rarely felt acknowledged by her words. When she recounted some of the recent comments she made, she noticed that they were less of a reflection of him and more a reflection on her. Statements like: “Aren’t I married to such a handsome, well-put-together man?” Or: “Haven’t I picked a winner?” didn’t capture qualities that were important to him. They were traits she valued in a partner that reconfirmed her own self-esteem and sense of worth.

Love should never be an act of manipulation. It is not a mark of ownership over another person, but the exact opposite—a genuine appreciation of a person as a separate individual. When we see a person this way, we allow ourselves to fully value them for who they are and for the happiness they bring to our lives. We are driven to be generous toward the person, to show compassion and kindness in a way that both they and the outside world would view as loving.

Of course, there are many barriers we put in place that not only keep us from finding this type of relationship but from achieving it with the person we love. One reason we wind up in less-than-loving relationships is the ways we were treated in our past. We may have become familiar with family dynamics in which we were rejected or intruded on, in which case we tend to seek out or recreate these same dynamics in our adult relationships. To become more loving thus means recognizing ways we self-sabotage: How are we recreating past hurts in our current relationships?

As we reflect on these behaviors, we learn a lot, not only about how we interfere with our naturally loving feelings for others but about the negative ways we feel about ourselves. It’s difficult to express love outwardly when we don’t feel our own sense of self-worth. One of the biggest reasons we shut out love is because we feel unworthy or self-denying. Therefore, to have a loving relationship, we must challenge our negative self-concept or critical inner voice. When we do this and take the loving actions that contradict our critical self-image, we enhance our own sense of worth and are able to get closer to the people we love.

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Things You Should Say To A Depressed Loved One

1. Can I relieve your stress in any way?

One thing all writing manuals say is “SHOW, don’t TELL”. Words aren’t all that helpful to a person struggling with depression. So what I found most comforting when I couldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps is when a friend came over and fixed me lunch, or when someone offered to tidy up my place. I realize that sounds a tad pampered and self-indulgent.

2. Is there something I can do for you?

Again, like number one, this is a SHOW, not TELL moment, and those are very effective at communicating compassion. The chances are that the depressed person will just shake her head as she cries, but I can assure you that she will register your offer in that place instead her heart that says, “This person cares about me.”

3. Can I drive you somewhere?

Here’s something that most people don’t know about folks battling depression: they are really bad drivers. REALLY bad. Bad driving is an easy way to diagnose a mood disorder. So, this suggestion is not only to help out your depressed friends who maybe do need some fish oil or tissue paper from the drug store, but also all the other people on the road.

4. Where are you getting your support?

Notice the difference between saying, “Are you going to any support group meetings?” which implies, “If you aren’t, you are one lazy who deserves to be depressed.” And “Where are you getting your support?” which says, “You need some support. Let’s figure out a way to get it.”

5. You won’t always feel this way.

That was the perfect sentence that I could hear 50 times a day when I wanted out of this world. Those words don’t judge, impose, or manipulate. What they do is convey hope, and HOPE is what keeps a person alive, or at least motivated to get to the next day to see if the light at the end of the tunnel is really a place of rebirth or a friggin’ freight train.

6. What time of day is hardest for you?

This one is brilliant. Call twice a day, once in the morning–because depression is usually most acute upon waking (“Crap, I’m still alive.”)–and at about 3 or 4 in the afternoon when blood sugar dips and anxiety can take over. Mind you, you don’t have to say a whole lot, but knowing that they could count on you during those two times is a little bit like holding someone’s hand through a dangerous intersection.

7. I’m here for you.

It’s simple. It’s sweet. And it communicates everything you need to say: I care, I get it, I don’t really understand it, but I love you, and I support you.

8. Nothing.

That’s the most uncomfortable one because we always want to fill in the silence with something, even if it’s weather talk. But saying nothing … and merely listening … is sometimes the very best response, and the most appropriate. I love this passage from Rachel Naomi Remen’s bestselling book Kitchen Table Wisdom:

“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.”

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Seven Ways Your Friends Influence You

For better or worse, our friends have the ability to impact our decisions. And oftentimes, we don’t even realize its happening. From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat and even the career moves we make. Check out these 7 ways our friends can influence us.

1. Your Relationship.

While friends often mean well when giving relationship advice, it’s essential to remember that everyone is giving counsel based on their own experiences (and projections) — plus, they’re only hearing half the story. Independence of thought and confidence are invaluable when it comes to accepting the realities of your own relationship. So, if you’re constantly comparing your couple hood to the ‘perfect’ ones you think your friends have (we know we’ve all done this before!), you’re going to frustrate both yourself and your partner and possibly erode your relationship by devaluing it.

2. Your Eating Habits.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant with the healthiest of intentions — a salad followed by grilled fish and steamed vegetables — only to find yourself halfway through a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings? Or, on the other hand, have you ever listened to everyone at your table order a salad with grilled chicken, only to hear yourself echo their order? As it turns out, eating is a contagious behavior.

In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which analysed data from 32 years, found that your chances of becoming obese actually increase by 57% if you have a friend that’s obese, a chance that’s even greater than sharing genes, she says. So if your overweight friend orders dessert, you assume it’s okay to do the same; you’re changing your eating habits to mirror hers. It’s not necessary to stop going out to dinner with these friends in real world scenarios, but these findings do suggest that mindfulness is especially important when dining out. We’d definitely have to agree with that one.

3. Your Exercise Regimen.

One of the best ways friends influence each other is to encourage, irritate, remind, show up, and be there for exercise. Research proves that having friends to exercise with, really improves both persons’ health, even if that friend is just a walking canine companion. Vice versa, if your friends aren’t physically active at all, it’s likely that exercise will become less of a priority for you.

4. Your Self-Esteem.

Think about it: we tend to compare ourselves to the people in our social group, and the social group we wish we were in, so if our friends have more than us (money, looks, things, etc.), then we tend to feel worse about ourselves and our lives. On the other hand, if we have a bit more than most of the people in our group, we tend to feel better about our lives. Obviously, self-esteem should come from within, though, so take a step back and re-evaluate if you find yourself guilty of this.

5. Your Goals & Aspirations.

Did you know that over 80% of women have “frenemies”? In other words, people who don’t have our best interests at heart and actually undermine goal accomplishment. Well, according to professional coach, it’s true. Research from Shelley Gable, called ‘What Happens When Things Go Right?’ says that how our friends respond to our good news can predict whether or not we continue to pursue what matters to us. The only right way to respond is called ‘active constructive responding,” which is an upbeat, engaging response that begs to know all the details.

6. Your Style.

Along with your geographic area, your family, and the media, friends have a big influence on what you wear. The more important fitting in is for you, the greater your friends’ influence will be. So when it comes to your clothes, whatever style it is that you’re used to seeing on a day-to-day basis, the more likely it is you’ll adopt this look for yourself. Why? Because it becomes your visual norm. This could be good or bad.

7. Your Career.

How many times have you heard, or said, ‘It’s who you know,’ when speaking of someone successful? It’s true. In order to succeed in many things, you need to know the people who have the power in that field. Throughout your school years, you build friendships with people who will turn out to be the powerful ones. And when you build good relationships with people who have succeeded, you find mentors and get an extra boost up the ladder of success that doesn’t exist for outsiders.

So tell us, how have your friends influenced you in your life, for better or worse?

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How To Deal With Being Dumped?

When your significant other ends the relationship, it can be a painful, lonely experience that makes you feel worthless and leaves you with a broken heart. Though it may not feel like you can get through this heartache, there are ways to cope that will see you through to the other side with a different perspective.

  1. Don’t hold out hope for a reunion. The sooner you accept that it is over, the faster you can heal. By hoping that your significant other will want you back, you are basically elongating the grief and setting yourself up for more disappointment. Too many times, a person will hold out for a reconciliation, only to find out that her significant other has started dating someone else. This type of situation only causes more pain and grief.
  2. Allow yourself to get emotional. It is never good for you to bottle up your emotions. If you are upset, have a good cry. If you are angry about the breakup, then show it (but don’t let your anger get the best of you by hurting yourself or others; instead, just scream or punch your pillow). You’d be surprised by how much better you can feel by releasing these emotions. Designate a time and place for this — but don’t let yourself emote 24/7 because you don’t want to end up drained either.
  3. Get rid of things that belong to or remind you of your ex. By doing this, you eliminate those things in your life that only make you think about your ex. The more you think about him/her, the more likely you are to think about the breakup and dwell on the pain you are feeling. If you can’t bear to part with these items — then put them into storage.
  4. Avoid contact with your ex. This basically falls on the same lines as getting rid of things that remind you of your ex. If after you have broken up you constantly call, talk to, or see your ex, it will only serve as a reminder of the failed relationship and cause you undue grief. So, try to have as little contact as possible with your ex. It may help you get over the loss.
  5. Make a list of things you didn’t like about your ex. This is a helpful method for folks who are finding it difficult to get over the end of a relationship. Jot down aspects about your ex that you didn’t like; such as habits, physical attributes, or personality features. The idea is to focus on the things you didn’t like and no longer have to deal with in order to better cope with the breakup. You may find that you feel a bit relieved that your ex is no longer around.
  6. Hang out with and talk to your friends. Your friends can be a wealth of moral support and can help you take your mind off the breakup. Have a powwow with some buddies and talk about your relationship woes. Round up some of your friends and go do something fun. You can have dinner, go on a shopping spree, take a weekend road trip, or whatever you consider a fun distraction.
  7. Stay busy. While you should deal with the issue, dwelling on the breakup may only just make you feel worse about the situation. If you find yourself thinking about it, then do something that will focus your mind on something else. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to turn into a workaholic. Simply putting a little extra effort into your work or taking up a new hobby should suffice.
  8. Go on a couple of dates when you’re ready. A common misconception when a person has been dumped is that they feel as though they won’t find someone else, which just isn’t true. Go on some dates. Not only can this prove to you that you can eventually find someone new, but it can also help you get over your ex and boost your ego. Just make sure that the dates remain casual for companionship only at this time.
  9. Don’t jump into another relationship. If you haven’t fully healed from the breakup, you may find yourself in an even worse relationship than the last. Rebound relationships hold a higher risk of someone getting hurt. Examples of such would be finding out that you aren’t as interested in the new person while he/she is completely into you, or being dumped again because you constantly talk about or compare the new person to your ex because you haven’t fully gotten over the breakup.
  10. Build up your ego. Being dumped can be a hit to the ego. You may begin to think that you were dumped because of something about you (e.g., I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t pretty enough). Much of the time this is an incorrect assumption, so take the time to do activities that make you feel better about yourself and boost your ego. Go out and talk with some folks, start exercising or learn something new.
  11. It’s not uncommon for people to stop taking care of themselves after a relationship has ended. You may find that you aren’t sleeping as much or eating enough. Some folks may even start becoming more self-destructive by drinking alcohol more frequently, overeating or engaging in careless sexual activity. By doing these things, you may find your health declining, hurt yourself or others, or find yourself in a world of regret. Always make sure that you take care of yourself. Just because you are no longer in a relationship doesn’t mean you are any less important.

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