Sunday, 29 October 2017

4 Ways Of Creating Positive Mindset In 2017 Using Mindfulness

Humans are hardwired toward negativity bias. We can get caught up in rumination or thought cycles, imagining and worrying about every potential outcome for our future. This leads to increased stress as well as anxiety.

I asked Katie Krimer, M.A., L.M.S.W., a psychotherapist and social worker at Union Square Practice, for her suggestions on creating a healthier mindset and letting go of the incessant worries. Here are her four practices you can do in 2017 to have fewer worries.

1. Recognize the function of the “checker”

When you have a negative thought or ruminative thought, you can remind yourself that there’s a part of your brain that acts as a “checker” of sorts–it’s there to maintain safety. But often, it’s a bit on the fritz. It’s checking in too frequently–hence the looping negative thoughts that are so hard to let go of.

Acknowledge that your brain is trying to check in to make sure that everything is safe and okay, and let it know that you are indeed alright. Give yourself permission to turn the checker off.

2. Label your thoughts

The most straightforward of mindfulness practices is to label thoughts as thoughts. We don’t tend to stop and realize that our brain is coming up with so many strings of words that it puts together at lightning speeds and that we then believe or engage with or indulge immediately.

We can start to engage with this notion: we are not our thoughts. When we label thoughts as thoughts, we give our brain the opportunity to create a necessary separation between us and that influx of information.

Just because our brain gives us the thought “I am unworthy,” does not mean that we need to believe it. We can simply acknowledge that we are having the thought, without giving it the meaning that we typically do. We can start to notice when we’re having particular thoughts, and label them neutrally and non-judgmentally, instead of immediately thinking “good or bad.”

3. Meditate

Shifting your attention by doing five minutes meditation, body scan or breathing exercise.

4. Shift your attention

Notice what’s okay and good. If your negative thoughts are on a loop, gently acknowledge them, but turn your attention to writing down five things that exist or happened that were good, pleasant or happiness-inducing. Did you have a delicious caffeinated drink? Did you talk to your best friend? Do you have a fun event coming up?

Mindfulness practice is about the “return”–this means noticing when your mind has strayed to thinking and bringing your awareness to the present, to something a little more positive–having the intention to shift your attention.


Friday, 27 October 2017

Divorce and the Practice of Dating

Growing up, many of us learned to value and naturally imagine our futures. We fantasized about who we would become when we grew up. That included who our future mates may be and what they’d look like, and our role in caring for our imaginary children. Others fantasized about a life partner or a career while children and a family were not on the agenda. For some people, singlehood without parenthood was the path. Either way, we all hoped that when we married, our unions would be happy and perhaps lifelong ones.

Most of us, when we bond or pair with another, especially when exclusive and monogamous, want it to work. However, studies described by the American Psychological Association show that “marriage and divorce are both common experiences. In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.”

Childhood books, movies, and cartoons promise a certain “happily ever after.” Well-meaning parents and caregivers promise a happy and idyllic future. A stark contrast exists today. But we are adjusting to new rules in today’s world. The options for “happily ever after” have widened. Divorce is more common; therefore, more people are divorced and dating. We have included a rainbow of additional life options beyond traditional heterosexual marriage and divorce. We now accept and embrace gay marriage. We live in a culture where polyamory is a movement and polygamy is displayed on TV as a part of everyday life.

We hope that deep love, hot sex, and youthful idealism will last forever and with one person (in many cases). Even with issues raised from the start, when in a committed relationship, one must do all one can do to save the partnership or try and protect the children (if that applies). After all, when you have love, you have everything, right? No, not right. Love or sharing children is not enough to keep a marriage vital.

Since people grow and their needs change, humanity may possibly need to expand from mating with one person for life to two or more. Once divorce is a reality, we learn to accept relationship termination and lessons learned. The choice to appreciate the positive feelings, experiences, and outgrowths of the relationship (including sharing children) is always within reach.

So what do you do when you find yourself approaching the end of your marriage and welcoming a new way of life, a brand-new beginning? How do you date if you haven’t been in the dating scene for some time? When you do meet someone interesting, what messages you are sending and receiving, whether in person or on online dating? How can you navigate dating as a single person? Here are some dating tips post-divorce:

  • Go at your own pace. You know when you are ready to date.
  • Trust your instincts and how you feel when in the company of someone new.
  • Respect your personal limits and only agree to what you are comfortable with.
  • Be yourself, honestly and unapologetically.
  • Notice your patterns and improve upon them.
  • Learn from past mistakes. Allow your intuition and wisdom to guide you.
  • Be willing to be open and take safe risks in order to try new things.
  • Have fun with the process of dating. It’s a real adventure!
  • Educate yourself on nonverbal language, active listening, and reading between the lines for in-person and online interactions.
  • Trust your inner guidance system when sharing yourself or your story.
  • Learn from each person you meet, date, or relate to. See what they do, more than say.
  • Observe role models who have happy, healthy relationships: What do they do?
  • Remember that dating is the same today as it was when you previously dated.
  • Enjoy going to new places and learning about new people, their differences and similarities.
  • Keep your heart and mind open.
  • Whatever you do, do it well. After all, we are all here to love, be loved, and learn. Love as much as you can and as often as you can. Be sure to love yourself and keep on learning.


Monday, 23 October 2017

5 Mistakes Women Make When Dating after Divorce

You just nibbled through an entire bar of dark chocolate. Your divorce papers are finally signed. You are 55, single and thinking about dating. The last time you had a first date, you wore jackets with shoulder pads and permed your hair. You are “out there” again, and the dating world has changed a lot since the eighties.

I’m divorced too and can empathize. Put down the chocolate; it really isn’t so bad out there. According to a recent article on, single boomers over fifty years old are enjoying the benefits of their new status. Seventy-five percent of women and 81 percent of men say that they are experiencing dating success. My advice is to get out there, but avoid these common mistakes I see women make after divorce.

Dating too soon after the divorce: I learned this lesson early. I only dated because my ex had a girlfriend, and it was my way to personally retaliate. Who did it hurt? Me! I was a dating disaster since I wasn’t truly ready. Starting to date again can be an overwhelming experience. My self-esteem was damaged and I felt stuck. I needed to work through my personal issues before I could be successful in dating. Fortunately, I had the help of a wonderful professional counselor who helped me move forward. Many women go straight to their girlfriends for advice on dating and relationships when a professional source is needed. 
An unbiased professional — someone who sees issues objectively — is a better choice. A coach will tell you the truth about your readiness to date. A well-meaning friend may not be so honest. My advice is, before you join the dating boomers, seek out professional help from a trained counselor or coach like myself. In this case, you need a coach more than you need to eat another chocolate bar with a girlfriend!

Being afraid to go solo: Solo is the way to go when you are looking to meet someone to date. Although we love being with our girlfriends, constantly traveling with a group of gal pals is a recipe for disaster. I know it takes time to feel comfortable traveling alone, so you need to practice. I suggest taking a class, going to a show, concert, movie or opera alone. Take yourself out for dinner and sit near the bar area. If you’re feeling confident, have dinner at the bar. If you spot someone of interest, catch his eye for a few seconds and smile. 
Perhaps he will come over and introduce himself. If he doesn’t, count it as practice. A woman alone is approachable, confident and mysterious. The more you practice going out alone, the easier it is. I tell clients, if you want to meet an interesting man, be an interesting woman. Remember, men are attracted to women who are independent and fun — women who have interesting lives of their own.

Being someone other than your “genuine self” on a first date: Talking about work may feel safe, but it’s not a good first date conversation. If you had a bad day, stay home unless you can bring a positive, approachable attitude along. Before going out, I put on some upbeat or romantic music, dance by myself in my home and think happy thoughts. I leave my past in the past. If you don’t have time to go home prior, dress for work in something “dateable” like a wrap dress, a pencil skirt, or a fabulous sweater or satin blouse that makes you feel pretty. Focus on a positive mood, be aware of your posture and stand tall. Add your favorite perfume, freshen your makeup and hair and smile. Your smile is always your most important beauty accessory and a welcoming appearance enhancer.

Breaking plans to date: It’s a mistake to break plans with girlfriends or alter your schedule if dating conflicts occur. Men don’t change their schedules and you shouldn’t either. Do keep doing what you enjoy and incorporate new experiences into a broadening social scene. I attend movie classes alone and add new classes each year to my schedule, no matter what is going on in my life. Men are attracted to women who have a vibrant life and who take care of themselves outside and inside. They will only like you more. Always nurture your spirit and do things that give yourself pleasure.

Burning bridges if you don’t feel “sparks”: Chemistry is elusive as you date. Be patient. Recently I went on a date and had a great evening, but there were no sparks. So what? I decided to accept a second date because we had fun together. Unfortunately, there is still no chemistry. My advice to my “dating self” was to make my date into my friend. The suggestion may offend some men, but take the opportunity to be good company. I know from experience that some men are happy with this idea. Men enjoy the companionship of a woman. There is no pressure; just friendship. Try it. You may be surprised with the results. What can start out as a friendship may even turn into romance. Sparks can disappear, but friendship is forever.

Remember, this is your time. Learn from the mistakes others have made and travel smoothly as you begin dating after divorce.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Health Benefits of Expressive Writing

Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, can really pay off.

Whether you put pen to paper or type on a computer, writing about stressful experiences or emotionally charged issues in your life can be good for your health and emotional well-being. In fact, expressive writing, which basically involves pouring your heart and mind into words, without worrying about spelling, punctuation, grammar and other writing conventions, is good medicine: In recent years, research has found that it improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis; helps with recovery from childhood sexual abuse and postpartum depression; and improves the state of mind in those with Parkinson's, cancer and many other health conditions.

It can even promote faster wound healing. In a 2013 study, researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand had 49 healthy adults, ages 64 to 97, spend 20 minutes a day for three consecutive days writing about upsetting events in their lives (expressive writing) or their daily activities (time management): Two weeks later, the researchers gave participants small puncture wounds on the inside of their upper arms then monitored their healing. Eleven days after the wound infliction, 80 percent more of those in the expressive writing group had fully healed compared with those in the other group.

The Magic Behind the Act

"Writing about an emotionally charged subject or an unresolved trauma helps you put the event into perspective and give some structure and organization to those anxious feelings, which ultimately helps you get through it," notes James Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at The University of Texas–Austin and co-author of the new book "Opening Up by Writing it Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain." "This can help people sleep better, feel and think better, and have richer social lives, all of which can bolster immune function and improve health."

Not surprisingly, writing about emotionally charged subjects also can improve mental health, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, major depressive disorder and even post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans. What's more, in a 2014 study involving 149 women in a residential treatment program for substance abuse disorders, researchers from the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, Connecticut, found that those who engaged in four 20-minute writing sessions (about emotional topics) on consecutive days had greater reductions in the severity of their post-traumatic symptoms, depression and anxiety after two weeks than participants who wrote about neutral topics.

The mechanisms behind these emotional benefits aren't entirely understood. One theory is that describing your feelings with words may be somewhat cathartic, releasing pent-up feelings that may be dragging you down. Another is that the act of writing can help you organize disorganized thoughts into more cohesive ones that give meaning to an upsetting or traumatic experience. It also may be that the process of writing enables people to learn to better regulate their emotions because they gain a sense of control over upsetting experiences life throws at them.

Meanwhile, a pair of studies published in the April 2016 journal Emotion found that expressive writing helps people distance themselves from a distressing life experience, which in turn makes them less emotionally reactive to it. "We think the process of creating a coherent story out of disorganized emotional memories facilitates self-distancing because this process requires people to adopt other people's perspectives and focus on broader contexts," explains lead author Jiyoung Park, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.

Feeling Is Believing

For as long as she can remember, Erin Morris had anxiety that would interfere with her ability to make decisions. In the fall of 2015, she started writing about whatever was on her mind for 15 minutes in the morning. "The important part for me is to not stop and judge myself or my writing but to let it flow and express everything that is in my head," says Morris, 36, a graphic designer who splits her time between Costa Rica and Columbia, South Carolina. Besides easing her anxiety, the writing habit has brought a considerable improvement in her previous sleep troubles, greater energy and "mental clarity when it comes to making decisions and dealing with complicated relationships," Morris reports.

Clint Evans, who spends up to 15 minutes writing in his journal in the morning and the evening, can relate to these perks. "Expressive writing reduces my stress and helps me sleep better," says Evans, 36, a business consultant and content service provider in Austin, Texas. "I feel release when writing in my journal – my mind stops racing and slows to a calm." The writing practice helps him fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.

Most of the research has explored the benefits of writing about one's deepest thoughts and feelings about a stressful event using the first-person point of view (the "I" voice). A 2013 study from the University of Iowa suggests that assuming a distant, third-person perspective (using "he" or "she") may be even more beneficial because it's associated with less intrusive thinking and fewer physical symptoms. "Taking an observer's vantage may be vital to maintaining composure and making progress when trying to sort through a distressing or angering event or moment in life," explains lead author Matthew Andersson, now an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "It's a short leap from picturing a difficult personal event from an observer's perspective to actually using a third-person pronoun, as if you're looking at a completely different person going through what you did."

Of course, "these potential pathways aren't mutually exclusive," Andersson notes, and there may be cumulative benefits. Whatever the mechanisms may be and whatever voice you choose to use, engaging in expressive writing can yield major benefits. "The beauty of this intervention is that it's cost-effective, low risk and [offers a] high payoff," notes Katherine Krpan, a psychologist who investigated the effects of expressive writing on major depressive disorder while at the University of Michigan. "People seem to like the idea of a non-pharmacological intervention. You can also do it wherever you are."

How to Write Yourself Well

To harness the power of expressive writing, Pennebaker recommends choosing a time and place where you're unlikely to be uninterrupted. Vow to write continuously about something that's upsetting you for at least 15 minutes on four consecutive days. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, verb agreement or other writing conventions; simply pour your deepest, most honest feelings onto paper or a computer screen. "It can be related to something you're dreaming, thinking or worrying about a lot, an issue or memory that's affecting your life in an unhealthy way, or a subject you've been avoiding for days, weeks or years," Pennebaker says.

Try it for at least a few weeks and see if it helps. If it does, stick with it. Ultimately, what you do with your expressive writing is entirely up to you: You can save it for future reference, throw it away, burn it or shred it, Pennebaker says. The important thing to remember is that it's meant to be for your personal benefit and your eyes only.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

So long Shirley Valentine, it's the turn of men to divorce

So long Shirley Valentine, it’s the turn of the men.

The phenomenon of older women ditching their husbands in mid-life, which inspired the tale of a middle-aged woman who finds new love on a Greek island, has been turned on its head.

New figures show that men are driving mid-life divorce as their earnings make them more attractive to younger women.

The proportion of so-called "silver splitters" who end their marriages in their 50s and 60s has increased.

One report, by think tank the International Longevity Centre, found that from 1990 to 2012, the number of over-60s getting divorced rose by over 85 per cent.

Now divorce experts have suggested that men could be driving this pattern as they reach their peak earning power and women worry about the financial implications of splitting up.

In every age group until 45, more women are divorcing than men. But the pattern changes in over-45s, when men overtake women.

For those aged over 60, 9,443 men divorced compared to 5,783 women. Older men are now divorcing in greater numbers, while women's average age has remained static.

The ONS said: "In 2014, the number of divorces was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 40 to 44.

"This represents a change for men, since between 2005 and 2013, divorces were highest among men aged 40 to 44."

Ellen Walker, a solicitor at Hall Brown Family Law, said increasing financial independence and concerns about the well-being of children meant younger women were more inclined to exit troubled marriages than men of the same age.

Younger female clients often want to minimise the distress caused to children still at home who witness domestic disputes.

However, the picture reversed as husbands’ earnings reached their peak and children left home. In its report, the ILC warned that growing mid-life divorce could have a serious effect on women's finances, as they were likely to earn less and have a smaller pension.

It said that divorce "may lead to financial difficulties, especially for women who may have been stay at home mums who do not have much by way of long-term savings of their own."

It added: "While rising labour force participation has helped to reduce the financial dependence of women on their spouse, the story is complicated with evidence of a continuing gender divide between men and women in terms of pay, particularly at older ages, and a low proportion of women saving for retirement."

Last year TUC analysis found that the gender pay gap was widest between men and women in their 50s, with women of this age group earning £8,504 less a year than men on average.

Previous analysis has also suggested that men reach the peak of their earning power in their early 50s. Ms Walker said that middle-aged women were now more likely to try to keep troubled marriages going because of these money worries.

She said: “There is a stark difference from the mid-forties onwards. With children grown and parental responsibilities seemingly discharged, it is men who are far more likely to lead the divorce process.

“In our experience, this often coincides with the point at which men reach their peak earning potential and, therefore, the possibility of being able to afford to start a new life.

“That increasing income and seniority at work can also increase their appeal to the opposite sex, including among younger women, perhaps placing troubled relationships even further in peril.”

According to the ONS, the difference is also partly explained by the traditional age disparity between couples. It said: "More women than men divorced below the age of 45; at older ages more men than women divorced.

"This pattern reflects the fact that on average men marry women who are younger than themselves."

A breakdown of who petitioned for divorce by age is not available, but the figures do suggest that fewer women asking for divorce is the main driver of a declining divorce rate.

ONS figures show that the overall number of women petitioning and being granted a divorce tumbled from 105,177 in 2004 to 69,803 in 2014, while figures for men fell by just 6,000, from 47,580 to 41,364. During the same period, the overall number of divorces granted fell from 152,923 to 111,169.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Remember your dream, and rise to the challenges...

"Don't just go through it, GROW through it." 

A little motivational video for that I certainly found helpful; I hope you do too.