Category Archives: Self Help

How to Stop Hurting When You Have a Narcissistic Parent

How to Stop Hurting When You Have a Narcissistic Parent

Published on PsychCentral

narcissistic parent

“If I accept that I can never have a real relationship with my father, it feels like I don’t have a father. If I accept that, am I still a son?”

Jack’s Story:

Jack is a 45-year-old architect, recently married for the first time. He came to therapy to deal with long-standing feelings of depression. His wife, ten years younger than Jack, wanted to start a family. Jack had spent years keeping a cool and cordial distance from his critical father. Now, as his wife pressed him to become a father himself, he felt flooded by sadness and insecurity. Could he be a good father? What if he messed it up?

Having done much reading, Jack came into therapy with the understanding that his father had many characteristics of a narcissistic personality disorder. Even as an adult, Jack could no right. Jack’s father constantly criticized his life choices, even his thoughts and feelings. Only his father’s way of seeing things was right.

Although Jack learned to expect that his father would react to perceived slights with complete rage, this behavior never became easier for him to bear. Still, part of him continued to hope that things would change. He hoped that some day he could have a “real” relationship with his father that would help him feel better about himself.

How to Feel Better

Jack gradually learned ideas that helped him cope with his painful feelings about his relationship with his father. He also learned that he could have these feelings and move forward in his life.

The following ideas helped him and they can help you, too. They are based on concepts from Buddhist meditation practices and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). The good news is you don’t have to a Buddhist, expert meditator, or be in DBT to greatly benefit from these ideas.

1. DIALECTICAL: means two ideas can be true at the same time. Life is full of opposites that exist together.

We can can feel better when we acknowledge what is AND that change can still occur. We can learn to cope with two opposite ideas.

2. ACCEPTANCE: means that we suffer when we hold onto things we can’t change.

We can accept things, without approving of them, and find new ways to live. When we accept painful realities, we can begin to problem solve.

Here is an especially important point:

Acceptance is more than than today’s ubiquitous phrase: “It is what it is.” This seems to imply: “Whatever. Just deal with it.”

Acceptance does not mean approving of, condoning, or forgiving a situation.

For Jack, this meant that accepting that a father with a narcissistic personality will not change. This is very painful; he will never have the kind of father-son relationship he craves and deserves. At the same time, Jack can move forward in his life. He can learn ways to deal with these painful feelings and have the life he wants (marriage, fatherhood, feeling good).

3. MINDFULNESS: helps us notice our feelings, but not be overwhelmed by them.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness. For example, when Jack felt hit by feelings of grief or fear, it helped him to imagine these feelings flowing out of him like waves roll out of the ocean.

After Jack learned about dialectics, acceptance, and mindfulness, he continued to have negative thoughts about himself and his future. This is normal. Our minds are like Gorilla Glue — they do not want to let go. Jack practiced noticing his self-critical, pessimistic thoughts and letting them go, without beating himself up for it. Sometimes he had to do this many times throughout day. It helped to remind himself that acceptance does not equal liking or even forgiving. It just meant that he was learning to cope and change.

The more Jack practiced Acceptance and Change, the more optimistic he felt. He began to feel that his sense of worth was separate from his relationship with his father. He could make his own choices.


5 Signs You’re Overscheduled

Mindbody Green

Do you ever wonder why some dreams come true faster than others? Why is it so hard to achieve that really big goal, yet you make others happen quickly without much notice? Manifesting your desires  Read

There is a fine line between not doing enough and doing too much in any given day. How do you know if you’re over-scheduling yourself into a total stress ball? Some say the clearest indicator is that you’re short-tempered. Do you find yourself getting angry with people for no reason? This is a common reaction to the stress of doing too much, which in turn can cause you to get hyper-emotional about everything and nothing.

Here’s an example. You race off to a meeting at a restaurant. You sit down and are immediately assaulted by the sound of a baby crying at the next table. You demand that the waiter talk to the baby’s parent. Why are you being so high-strung about this situation? Your reaction might not be a response to the baby’s crying but to the fact that you’re stressed-out in general.

Here are a few other clues that you’re turbo-loading your schedule in an unhealthy way:

1. You’re constantly screaming at people.

If you’re becoming a rageaholic, try some mindful breathing exercises. Another tip I like is to try to get rid of nonobligatory appointments and replace them with something relaxing.

For instance, if you feel you really don’t need to be part of your sixth school bake sale of the year, but you would be more than willing to volunteer to accompany your child’s class on a school trip spent wandering around a museum, make the change. You’ll thank yourself later.

2. You’re always feeling tired and slightly sick.

Remember that stress plays upon your health, so constant headaches, stomachaches, and even that nervous, jittery feeling are signs that you’re overdoing it with your schedule.

3. You’re always late.

Maybe that’s your thing — always being late. And your friends even laugh about it: “That Tom, he’s never on time. You can count on him being late.” The truth is, if you’re always late, you’re probably trying to do too much. Take out a few variables and you might be on time.

4. You’re a clutter king or queen.

Are there piles of stuff cascading all over your kitchen counter or desk? Maybe you don’t have a real filing system but are so busy that you just toss everything from bills to catalogs to that college reunion notice on top of the mountain of clutter.

If you’re too busy to run your own life, it’s time to stage an intervention. Hire a clutter expert or spend a long Saturday organizing and throwing out and shredding what you don’t need. Set aside a day each week to keep it all organized, or fit in a half hour at work to do the same with your desk.

5. You can’t remember the last time you smiled.

If you’re just trudging through your day trying to get it all done without much success … well, that’s no way to live. If you can’t remember the last time you smiled or had a bit of fun, then it’s time to examine your schedule and weed out what’s not necessary.

Remember that life is short. You don’t always want to spend time doing things out of obligation — such as watching your neighbor’s kids for the tenth time.

Adapted from Soothe by Jim Brickman. Copyright (c) 2015 by Jim Brickman. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

15 Life Lessons Learned From Primatologist Jane Goodall


In the world of biology, Jane Goodall is one of the biggest rockstars, drawing huge crowds and attention everywhere she goes. Having dedicated her life to the study of chimpanzees and crusading to save our planet, Goodall’s work is full of passion and meaning. Here are a few lessons we can learn from her.

Make time to read

Though she often has little time to spare, Goodall always reads a few chapters of a book every night. She credits reading Tarzan and the Apes to putting her on her path to explore Africa. Reading was also responsible for one of her greatest opportunities: when she met Louis Leakey she impressed him with her vast knowledge of Africa-knowledge she had obtained solely from books.

Value your family

Goodall frequently travels with her family and cites her mother as one of her biggest inspirations. As a child growing up she was always exploring and asking questions. Instead of scolding her or trying to suppress her curiosity, her mother encouraged Goodall, something she says is the reason why she was able to be so successful.

Don’t let school get in the way of your education

Goodall went from secretary school straight to getting her doctorate degree. Leakey famously told her that she couldn’t waste the time getting an undergraduate degree; she had to go straight to the top of academics. That had to be intimidating for a young girl back then with no training other than as a secretary, with most of her knowledge being self taught. But under her supervisor’s guidance she excelled and went on to change the science world forever.

Treasure this earth

Goodall is a famous activist for wildlife preservation. She has seen firsthand what is being done to this earth and she uses her position to mitigate it. Goodall has written several books about our planet’s decline as well as ways that we can restore it. She even started a group Roots and Shoots, an international community action based program, to help teach children about what is going on and how they can help.

Leave a legacy

Roots and Shoots is just a part of the greater Jane Goodall Institute. The JGI is a nonprofit founded by Jane Goodall that empowers others to make a difference in this world. The institute focuses on preservation, alleviating poverty, increasing education and sustainable living. Through the JGI and programs like Roots and Shoots, the legacy of Jane Goodall will live on and help to make the world a better place.


Practice compassion

Goodall has seen her share of horrific practices and treatment of chimpanzees and other species. She dedicated her life to studying and helping these creatures but focused her charity only on animals. One day on a flight over Gombe National Park she saw the abject poverty the people there lived in. She realized then that until a person could feed their families they wouldn’t care about saving animals and that it was irrational to ask starving men to stop poaching when it was their only way of making money. She has since extended her charities to helping humanity and eradicating poverty.


Don’t just theorize, act

Goodall is not just theory and talk, she is about action. Her institute is at the forefront of bringing the inhumane treatment of animals to the public’s attention. Her most recent crusade is urging aquariums around the world to phase out the practice of keeping beluga whales and dolphins in captivity.

Persistence pays off

Goodall’s work in Tanzania was arduous and slow, getting familiar with chimpanzees to let her get close enough to observe them before collecting the data and defending her methodology. But eventually her persistence payed off and entire scientific volumes have been written about her discoveries. She even discovered that chimpanzees used modified tools — a trait beforehand only given to distinguish humans.

There are many teachers in life

Not all of Goodall’s learning was from books or academics. She gives credit to a dog named Rusty and the chimpanzees she worked with for teaching her compassion and that animals can have unique personalities too. Goodall gave her chimpanzees names and wrote their personalities down as scientific notes! She believes that science must become more empathetic or we will miss crucial elements of what we are studying.


Your comfort zone is just a suggestion

The average chimpanzee is 3-5 times stronger than an average human. Picture a young Jane Goodall, no protection, no weapons, sitting just a few feet from foraging chimps — now that’s getting out of your comfort zone! She was in very real danger, enduring charges by the males, as well as the elements and diseases of Africa including Malaria and African sleeping sickness. Goodall proves that only by getting out of our comfort zone can we achieve greatness.


Age does not define you

Jane Goodall is almost 81 years old yet she travels more than 300 days a year. She marches in protests, she speaks at schools and conferences, and she is personally involved in her institute all at an age well past retirement. Her strong sense of purpose and determination enables her to do things most never dream of at an age that most don’t think they’ll ever reach.

You can get more done together

Goodall is famous for saying that the best way to deal with your enemy is to make them your friend. She has met with heads of the logging industry, petroleum and even lab scientists to listen and exchange ideas and from those meetings real change has occurred. She has recently partnered with Google to bring views of Gombe National Park to every computer screen on earth in an effort to raise awareness of the plight of chimpanzees around the world. She also partners with several local groups in Africa and starts Roots and Shoots programs to get more people involved.


Technology can connect us and teach us

Along with her partnership with Google, Goodall also uses online platforms like Twitter and YouTube to raise awareness and spread her message. The JGI releases animal videos that go viral; the more they are shared the more people cannot ignore their messages and the faster change happens.

Sometimes luck plays a huge role

While Goodall is an incredibly hard worker with legendary determination, luck did play a role in her career. Her mother encouraged her to go to secretary school. She was then chosen to be the secretary for Louis Leakey, a famous scientist and explorer. She impressed Leakey so much that he mentored her and encouraged her to get her PhD and continue her research. Without this chain of events, who knows what Goodall’s life would have led to?

Never give up hope

The most important message Goodall gives is to never, never, never give up hope. Hope is the one thing that keeps her going, the main reason she founded the JGI. She has hope in mankind and in the future. She believes that the combined efforts of the human brain, the indomitable human spirit, the resiliency of nature and the determination of young people can and will bring this planet back and stop the extinction of species and the decimation of the wild


I had the honor of meeting Dr. Goodall when she came to speak at Georgia State University. What struck me at first was how frail she seemed, she is almost 81 after all. But from the moment she opened her mouth and gave out a loud female chimpanzee greeting call I knew she was a force to be reckoned with. Her life gives us many lessons about love, compassion, determination, change, and truly living. But the main message to take away is to never give up hope.

Break Bad Habits by Changing Your Environment

By Thorin Klosowski From Life Hacker

We know that different types of triggers can cause us to fall back into certain habits, but actually doing something about that is harder than it seems. Over on NPR, a handful of psychologists explain how altering a physical place can help you break bad habits.

Over time, we integrate our habits into our environment and the environment itself becomes a trigger. The trigger itself isn’t always obvious either, sometimes it’s nothing more than a door:

“For a smoker, the view of the entrance to their office building — which is a place that they go to smoke all the time — becomes a powerful mental cue to go and perform that behavior,” Neal says.

Over time those cues become so deeply ingrained that they are very hard to resist. And so we smoke at the entrance to work when we don’t want to. We sit on the couch and eat ice cream when we don’t need to, despite our best intentions, despite our resolutions…

To battle bad behaviors then, one answer is to disrupt the environment in some way. Even small changes can help — like eating the ice cream with your nondominant hand. What this does is disrupt the learned body sequence that’s driving the behavior, which allows your conscious mind to come back online and reassert control.

Of course, adapting to your triggers is going to be different, but if you’re struggling to get into a good habit (or break a bad one), look around and see if you can do things a little differently.

What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits | NPR


Why You May Feel Short on Time (Even If You Have Plenty of It)

From Lifehacker

Patrick Allan

We all have those days where it feels like there’s not enough time in the world to get our work done. Truth is, you might have plenty of time to get everything done, but your competing goals have altered your perception of time in general.

In a recent study, Jordan Etkin of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business teamed up with researches from Stanford to see how goal conflict can alter your mind’s perception of time. What they found was that goals perceived to be in conflict with one another caused participants to feel pressured for time. When goals appear to pull us in multiple directions, we develop anxiety and start to believe that there couldn’t possibly be enough time to do what we need to do. Priorities clash and suddenly time itself seems shorter. Additionally, participants were found to be far more impatient when this kind of anxiety developed.

So what can you do to keep your perception of time in check? Etkin and her colleagues recommend taking slow breaths over the span of 11 seconds. It can also help to psych yourself up in whatever way you can. Participants that were told to repeat aloud, “I am excited!” were able to fix their time perception as well. Of course, you could also find a way to make sure your days task never appear at odds with each other to begin with. Organize your week so that your days have themes or plot your work in groups of similar ideas. There are many ways for your brain to perceive time, and gaining control of your perception can help you relieve a lot of your stress.

How Your Brain Perceives Time (and How to Use It to Your Advantage)

We might not be able to create more time when we need it most–like when a deadline is… Read more

Making the Most of Second Chances

Making the Most of Second Chances

From Psychology Today

You’re given a reprieve. Will you reform or recidivist?

Seth Anderson, CC 2.0

I’ve long known I should lose 15 pounds but haven’t stayed disciplined. And every year, I dread going for my annual wellness exam. Is this the year the doctor will say, “You’re prediabetic,” “You’re at risk of a heart attack?” or  “You have cancer?” (Yes, cancer risk is higher even in even moderately overweight people.)Today, I had my wellness exam and yet again left with a cheery report. As I do every year, I walk out saying, “Okay, Martin. You got a reprieve. Lose the damn weight.” Will I? My track record says no but in this post, I share the strategies I’m going to try to use, the triumph of hope over experience. Perhaps one or more might help you.

Before I share them, lest you have forgotten about second chances you’re being given, here’s a list of possibilities:

  • You got stopped for driving 90 in a 60 and the cop let you go.
  • You reported only half your income to the IRS and didn’t get audited.
  • You had sex with eight people when you promised you’d be monogamous. And you didn’t get caught.
  • You got high on a bad batch of a recreational drug, vomited your guts out but incurred no permanent damage.
  • You’ve been lazy and cantankerous at work and survived this layoff.
  • You were warned, “One more time and you’re out of the (team, board, club, etc.)”
  • You were cruel or inconsiderate to a friend or family member but were forgiven.
  • You went off your psych meds ill-advisedly and slit your wrist, but you survived.
  • You committed a crime and are now out of jail.
  • You had unprotected sex with someone you weren’t sure was free of STDs and you didn’t get one.
  • You’ve generally been a mean person but still have people willing to deal with you.

Ways to boost chances of keeping your resolve

Right after we’ve gotten a reprieve, our resolve is strong but, like with New Year’s resolutions, it tends to weaken. There are no magic pills for developing willpower but perhaps one or more of these might help:

  • Write the most motivating reason(s) you want to change. For example, I want to lose weight so I won’t be on that gurney with the nurses yelling, “Code Blue!” Before every meal, don’t read but paraphrase your reason. If you just read it, it won’t penetrate any more than when students recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Tell everyone your goal—Use Facebook, email, phone, in-person, whatever. Especially tell people you’d be embarrassed if they found out you blew it.
  • Stay conscious at your danger times. One of mine is when my meal is cooking. Instead of leaving the kitchen until it’s ready, I fill the time by stuffing my face. Another is when I’m driving by one of my favorite restaurants: “It’s a one-time opportunity,” I rationalize. What are your danger times:  When you start to feel angry or bitter? When you’re under the influence? What?

Now if only I can resist celebrating my clean bill of health without consuming a zillion calories.

Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia.

How a Schedule Can Help You Sleep Better

From Psych Central by Polly Campbell

The fancy digital, pedometer-bracelet thingy around my wrist tells me I slept six hours and 25 minutes with four interruptions. As I struggle to awake, my body can tell you, that isn’t nearly enough.

An estimated 70 million Americans are sleep-deprived, according to the National Sleep Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many nights, I am among them.

Aside from the health risks associated with inadequate sleep, such as depression, memory and attention issues, mood disorders, and the higher risk of physical illness, researchers at the University of Oxford now believe a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality may also contribute to brain shrinkage. That thought alone might keep you up at night.

Sleep is essential to repair and restore the brain, says lead researcher Claire Sexton. If the repair process is interrupted by a sleepless night, brain function also can be affected. In her study, participants who experienced poor sleep also showed brain shrinkage in the three lobes of the brain linked to decision-making, movement, emotions, thoughts, memory and learning, according to the study published in the journal Neurology.

It doesn’t take a study to remind us that sleep is essential, but for many getting a good night’s sleep begins long before bedtime.

Parents of young children talk often and even obsess about how to get their kids to sleep. When my daughter was a toddler, we put her on a sleep schedule.

Every night beginning an hour or so before bed, we followed the same routine, a ritual of sorts, to help her wind down and get primed for sleep. We turned off the television, dressed her in her pajamas, brushed her teeth, snuggled in the rocking chair, read books, and finally, after she was tucked in with lights out, we sang some little songs. By the time we left her room, she was, most nights, ready to rest.

A sleep schedule or consistent sleep-priming routine also can help adults get better sleep. Here are five things to include in your routine:

Turn off all devices. Starting two hours before bed, shut down the smartphones, computers, televisions sets and other electronics that emit blue light waves. This light throws off our natural rhythms, making it harder to sleep.

Eat early and wisely. If you are an evening snacker, nibble on a few crackers and a slice of cheese, or another small protein/carb combo at least two hours before bed. Also lay off caffeine and alcohol in the evening hours.

Turn down the lights. When darkness falls, turn off (or at least dim) the lights in the house. Our bodies are sensitive to the natural day and night light patterns called circadian rhythms. When the sun rises, the light helps us wake up and become alert and our bodies secrete cortisol. When darkness falls, our bodies are infused with sleep-inducing melatonin. But here’s the rub: artificial lighting throws off those biological rhythms, suppresses the release of melatonin, and makes it hard to sleep. Keeping things dark at night and exposing yourself to natural light during the day will help.

Release the niggling negative thoughts.   After you’ve created a sleep-promoting environment, choose a relaxing activity such as meditation, a hot bath, deep breathing exercises, journal writing or something else that allows you to release the day’s stress. Sometimes, I practice mindfulness while brushing my teeth and washing my face as a way to release bad feelings and promote calm.No matter which you choose, do use this time to quietly observe, without judgment, your thoughts and concerns and then release them. This will keep you from ruminating into the early hours

Go to bed. Finally, after you’ve gone through your sleep routine, head to bed, turn off the light and lie down. Even if you don’t feel like sleep, it’s important that you develop the habit by lying down in bed and getting up at the same time, every single day. It may take a few days, but soon your body will catch on that it’s time to sleep when you lie down in bed.

In this hectic, heavily-booked culture we live in, a sleep schedule may seem like a cumbersome way to get rest. But anything that will help you sleep better will also improve your physical health, daytime productivity, mental resilience and even your relationships. Sleep could just be the simplest way to boost overall health and happiness.

Polly Campbell is a sought-after motivational speaker and the author of two books, Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People and How to Reach Enlightenment.

10 Things You Can Toss With No Regrets

Great article for hoarders and those wanting to move forward in their lives.

10 Things You Can Toss With No Regrets from psychology today

Are you still hanging onto jeans you haven’t been able to zip in a decade, or a grudge against a co-worker that’s long past it’s expiration date? Let’s face it, even if we’re not hoarders we all have stuff from our past—unnecessary keepsakes as well as emotional baggage—cluttering our lives.
Here are some suggestions for what to toss to the curb to make room for better things:

1. Clothes That No Longer Fit Your Lifestyle

Clothes can be a wistful reminder of days gone by—the funky poncho that was so fun to wear back in college or the beige power suite with wide lapels. “Women have a hard time letting go of clothes that hold memories, but if you haven’t worn something in a full year it’s probably time to turn the page on it,” says Donna Smallin, author of Organizing Plain and Simple. Someone else is bound to love it, and any profits from a consignment shop or yard sale can go toward buying something great you can wear now.

2. Your Old Self-Image

Who you were 20 years ago has little to do with the person staring back from the mirror today. Yet many of us harbor old self-images that are hard to shake. Carole Lynch was a mother of two and a respected police officer, yet she hung onto the geeky image of herself as a shy teen with a bad perm and no fashion sense well into her 30s. “One day, as I was cleaning the basement shelves and my hand touched my junior high yearbook, I started thinking about all the murders and rapists I’d taken off the streets,” says Lynch, now 62. “I realized how silly it was to keep a record of my low self-esteem from decades ago.” Lynch didn’t just throw away her book of bad memories; she put it through the shredder as a ritual statement for really letting go of the past.

3. Failed Diet Souvenirs

We all have dieting skeletons in our kitchen pantries—like an abandoned bottom shelf packed with low-carb snacks or high-protein shakes. “We tell ourselves that one day we’ll get back to eating that ‘good’ food, but it may be just a useless reminder of a failed diet that wasn’t right for our body,” says Philip Goglia, author of Turn Up the Heat: Unlock the Fat-Burning Power of Your Metabolism. “Some people crave carbs because their body really does need more of them.” (The same goes for exercise equipment; the stationary bike you keep tripping over in the garage may be there because it never really worked for your body. Get a trial membership at a gym, see what you really like using, and then make a wiser investment.)

4. Nagging Expectations

Of course, most of us have something we wish we could change about our spouse. (For me, it’s my husband’s amnesia about turning out the household lights before going to bed.) “Renegotiating household responsibilities, allowing each partner to toss jobs that just aren’t on their radar screen, can take the pressure off your marriage and leave more room for enjoying each other,” says Detroit psychotherapist Cindy Glovinsky. My husband and I recently negotiated a win-win deal: I’ll do evening light patrol and he’ll cook dinner an extra night every week.

5. Old Grudges

Everyone has someone who did them wrong lurking in their past—the co-worker who snitched on you or the girlfriend who stole your guy. Many of us hold some grudges for years, but when it comes down to it, haven’t we all made mistakes? In a University of Michigan survey, nearly 75 percent of respondents said they believe God has forgiven them for a past misdeed, but only 52 percent of them had forgiven others. “Many of us find it difficult to forgive if the offending party doesn’t own up to their actions and apologize,” says Stanford psychologist Fred Luskin, who teaches forgiveness seminars. “The trick is to give yourself permission to put your bitterness in the past for your own good—regardless of the other person’s actions. Why give all that power to someone who’s done you wrong?”

6. Family Ghosts

Every family history is filled with cherished memories as well as some that are best parted with. Marilyn Paige of Philadelphia felt so strongly that she needed to let go of her family legacy of secrets and lies that at age 33 she legally dropped her last name. “My grandmother was a single mom before anyone knew what that meant,” says Paige, now 47. “She was ashamed and bitter, and passed along that history of guilt to my father. After I filled out the legal forms to officially let go of a family surname attached with such dark feelings, I finally felt free to embrace a new history all my own.” Paige did keep her father’s first name, Heywood, as her middle name, to honor the part of her family history she wanted to hang onto—the loving father who instilled a great sense of humor and curiosity about others in his children despite the nurturing he lacked in his own childhood.

7. A Pack Rat Attitude

Sometimes the main thing standing in the way of tossing keepsakes we no longer need is our attitude. “Many pack rats keep absolutely everything because they can’t bear to think of their mementos as garbage,” says Gail O’Neill, host of HG-TV’s Mission: Organization. “Finding a second home for keepsakes can soften the blow. Even if you can’t sell something, you can usually give it away.” When Maria Rock began remodeling her garage into an apartment for her father, she was at a loss for what to toss. “I couldn’t bear to throw out any of our family collectibles—shelves overflowing with Christmas decorations, stacks of boxes with my grown children’s faded school papers,” says the Chico, California horticulturist. “Then, my dad suddenly died and losing something really precious swung everything into focus.” By the time Rock was done, she had filled an 8-foot trailer bed with dump-worthy items, while salvaging enough ornaments, stuffed animals, and ceramic Santas for 20 needy families to have a merrier Christmas. “I realized that even though I got rid of 30 years worth of accumulated things, my family history would always stay in my heart.”

8. Gifts Wrapped in Guilt

Some people have no sixth sense about gift giving and keep wrapping up that proverbial fruitcake. “Lots of gifts wind up as clutter—usually hidden away in closets—because we feel guilty getting rid of presents from people we care about,” Smallin says. “But if it truly was a gift from the heart, the giver would want you to enjoy it or give it to someone else who can.”

9. Books You’ll Never Read

Great books can be read time and again, but we all have paperbacks that were at ten-for-a-dollar at a garage sale, or titles that looked better on than when they arrived. There’s no written or unwritten rule that says we can’t toss these volumes before we’ve read them cover-to-cover. “For years, I collected serious books on topics that I knew I’d never read, but I thought it made me smarter just having them around—as if through osmosis I would soak up the information,” says Janice Taylor, who recently gave up dozens of books when she moved out of her Brooklyn, New York home of 21 years. “As I started packing, it hit me: Having these unread books didn’t actually make me feel intelligent, but quite the opposite.” Taylor felt really smart as she dropped the piles of books off at a high school for kids who would actually appreciate them.

10. Your “To Do” List

What would you do without your To-Do list for just one day? “You wouldn’t forget the things that are really important just because they aren’t written down,” Glovinsky says. As for all that other stuff? “Let it sit for a day—it will still be there tomorrow, and you’ll have more energy after a refreshing day off.”

Jennifer Haupt is a freelance writer living in Seattle, Washington.

Jennifer Haupt is a writer based in Seattle, Washington. She has written for O, The Oprah Magazine, Readers Digest, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Get a Hold of Yourself: 3 Kinds of Deep Breathing

3 Kinds of Deep Breathing» by Therese Borchard on June 9, 2013

Deep breathing has become increasingly important in my recovery from depression and anxiety because I recognize that shallow breath contributes to my panic. In fact, at my worst hours, I would use a paper bag to keep from hyperventilating.

The practice of deep breathing stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), responsible for activities that occur when our body is at rest. It functions in opposite to the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities associated with the flight-or-fight response. I like to the think of the PNS as the calm sister and the sympathetic nervous system as the non-sympathetic crazy sister on the verge of a nervous breakdown. You know that woman in the movie “Airplane” that’s wigging out (watch this clip), and there is a line behind her of people with weapons saying “Get a hold of yourself.” The woman represents the sympathetic nervous system, and the long line of folks with bats, ropes, purses, etc. are members of the parasympathetic nervous system trying to calm the panicked passenger.

Of all the automatic functions of the body—cardiovascular, digestive, hormonal, glandular, immune–only the breath can be easily controlled voluntarily, explain Richard P. Brown, M.D. and Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D. in their book, “The Healing Power of the Breath.” They write:

By voluntarily changing the rate, depth, and pattern of breathing, we can change the messages being sent from the body’s respiratory system to the brain. In this way, breathing techniques provide a portal to the autonomic communication network through which we can, by changing our breathing patterns, send specific messages to the brain using the language of the body, a language the brain understands and to which it responds. Messages from the respiratory system have rapid, powerful effects on major brain centers involved in thought, emotion, and behavior.

In their eight substantive chapters, the authors discuss several techniques of deep breathing to reduce stress and anxiety. They start off with three basic approaches which provide the building blocks for the others:

Coherent Breathing

Coherent breathing is basically breathing at a rate of five breaths per minute, which is the middle of the resonant breathing rate range. I achieve this if I count to five inhaling and count to five exhaling. The five-minute rate maximizes the heart rate variability (HRV), a measurement of how well the parasympathetic nervous system is working. Brown and Bergarg explain that changing our rate and pattern of breath alters the HRV, which causes shifts in our nervous system. The higher the HRV the better because a higher HRV is associated with a healthier cardiovascular system and a stronger stress-response system. Breathing at a rate that is close to one’s ideal resonant rate (around five breaths per minute) can induce up to a tenfold improvement in HRV.

Resistance Breathing

Resistance breathing is exactly what its name suggests: breathing that creates resistance to the flow of air. Per the authors:

Resistance can be created by pursing the lips, placing the tip of the tongue against the inside of the upper teeth, hissing through the clenched teeth, tightening the throat muscles, partly closing the glottis, narrowing the space between the vocal cords, or using an external object such as breathing through a straw.

All that sounds a bit complicated to me. Breathing should be easy, right? So I simply breathe out of my nose, which, according to Brown and Bergarg, creates more resistance than breathing through the mouth. I do think it’s interesting when they explain that singing and chanting – all musical sounds created by contracting vocal cords—are forms of resistance breathing, and that is why they provide that relaxed sensation you can get meditating (if you CAN meditate).

Breath Moving

Breath Moving is when, well, the breath moves. Courtesy of your imagination. Brown compares this exercise to an internal massage. I’m not sure I’d go that far. I like the real deal. However, I do think sending your breath on a little journey around your body – as long as it doesn’t get too lost — does help you keep your concentration on the exercise and not on your to-do list because counting to five can get a little old. For example, here’s part of a circuit the authors offer in their book:

As you breathe in, imagine you are moving your breath to the top of your head.

As you breathe out, imagine you are moving your breath to the base of your spine, your perineum, your sit bones.

Each time you breathe in, move the breath to the top of the head.

Each time you breathe out, move the breath to the base of the spine.

Breathe in this circuit for ten cycles.

The history of Breath Moving is fascinating. According to the authors, the technique was created in large part by the Russian Christian Orthodox Hesychast monks around the eleventh century. The monks would teach the technique of moving the breath to the holy Russian warriors to help protect them from harm and to empower them as they defended their territory against invaders.

‘Discardia’: How to Indulge Moderately

‘Discardia’: How to Indulge Moderately from Psych Central

‘Discardia’: How to Indulge Moderately

I recently read Delia Ephron’s very amusing and thought-provoking book of essays, Sister Mother Husband Dog: (Etc.).

In her essay “Bakeries,” she describes visiting her favorite bakeries and eating her favorite pastries — granola cookies, pizza bread, pain au chocolat, chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, pistachio donuts — all around New York City.

As I was reading, I was thinking, “Zoikes, how can she be eating all these pastries all the time, without bad health effects?”

Then Ephron explains:

I am lucky to live in carb paradise and I am lucky to be afflicted with a syndrome (disorder?) that my husband calls Discardia — the tendency to throw things away after a few bites unless I fall in love or am really hungry. Thank God for Discardia, or I would be someone who had to be removed from my house with a crane.

When I read this, I thought, “She’s a classic Moderator!”

I’ve concluded that when dealing with temptation, people are either “Moderators” or “Abstainers.” (Take this quiz to find out what you are.)

Moderators do better when they indulge in moderation, and they get panicky if they’re told they can “never” have or do something. They find that a little indulgence satisfies them, and they often lose interest after a few bites. Thus — Discardia!

Abstainers, by contrast, find it tough to start something once they’ve started, but they aren’t troubled by things that are off-limits. They do better when they don’t have that first bite. I’m 100% Abstainer, and life became so much easier for me when I realized that. As my sister the sage, also an Abstainer, explained, “French fries are my Kryptonite. I gave them up, and now I’m free from French fries.”

A Moderator friend told me, “I keep a bar of fine chocolate in my desk, and every day I have one square.”

I said, “I could never do that, that chocolate bar would haunt me until it was gone.” (I’ve since learned that many, many Moderators keep a bar of chocolate squirreled away somewhere.)

There’s no right way or wrong way, only what works for a particular individual. While giving up something (like pastries) might sound hard, for me, it’s far easier than it would be to eat just three bites of a pistachio donut.

Delia Ephron’s “Discardia” is a great example of Moderator behavior — and a great example of how one person’s behavior may or may not suit someone else.

In my book Better Than Before, about how we can change our habits, I have a chapter on the Strategy of Abstaining. (To pre-order, click here–buy early and often.) Abstaining works very well for some people, and not at all for others. Abstaining wouldn’t work for Delia Ephron; Discardia wouldn’t work for me.

Because moderation is so often held up as an ideal and because it sounds so pleasant and less rigid, many people assume they’re Moderators. From what I’ve observed, many people are actually Abstainers. Could you eat three bites of a chocolate cookie with walnuts? I couldn’t. But I can walk right past that bakery. If you’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to act like a Moderator, give the Abstainer approach a chance. I know it sounds harder, but really, for Abstainers, it’s easier.

Moderators, do you have a habit like Discardia?

Abstainers, does this sound like something you would do?

In addition to the Abstainer/Moderator issue, some people will be very uneasy at the thought of deliberate food waste.

Gretchen Rubin is the award-winning author of The Happiness Project, a #1 New York Times bestseller. Order your copy or read some sample chapters from the book. You can also watch the one-minute book video or listen to a sample of the audiobook. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central.