Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Using Humor to Combat Stress, Reduce Phobias and Decrease Intrusive Thoughts

Friday, May 23, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Treatment Techniques

Laughter. It’s kind of a big deal. 

I, to my benefit or my peril, have the uncanny ability to turn almost anything into a ridiculous, sarcasm-filled fantasy. If this sounds fun to you, humor may be just the ticket out of scary thoughts

The Psychological Benefit of Laughter

Humor may be just as effective at reducing fear as desensitization, a type of exposure therapy1. Even the simple act of smiling has the ability to improve mood according to David Eagleman author of Incognito8

But why would this be?...  continue reading

Why Are You Jealous of Your Friend's Friend? BFFs, Ruthlessness and Vulnerability

Monday, May 19, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Evolutionary Psychology

Friendships were critical in our evolutionary history due to the fact that we usually raised our children together, sharing all responsibilities among close members of a group. Women even evolved a special "tend and befriend" panic response to ensure we stuck together when things got stressful. I assume this meant that fewer early women wanted to run off and join the circus on the regular. 

Built in assistance? Yes, please. 

Our emotional closeness to each other was the biggest facilitator of this arrangement by allowing us to create long-term friendships with other women. Today we don't rely on each other as much, but this certainly doesn't mean that our brains have forgotten all about those early days of critical connection....  continue reading

Using Your Workout To Fight Depression: The Benefits of "Green Exercise" and Avoiding Creepy Dudes

Friday, May 16, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Physical Health and Emotion

Numerous studies link exercise to mental health improvement, possibly due to the release of endorphins or assistance in regulating stress response systems.

But I have a confession to make: I hate going to the gym. 

There, I said it. It's not the actual exercise part, not really. It's more that I always get stuck on a stair climber next to those people who barely sweat in their unwrinkled workout clothes, while I huff away in my yoga pants and three-day-old socks. 

Then, there's always that creepy dude in the corner who seems intent on watching the people on the stair climbers, regardless of their sock situation. 

"Hey, baby. I've got something you can climb..." 

Pass, creepy dude. 

Luckily, there might be a better way to exercise, one that leads to higher rates of emotional benefits....  continue reading

"You're Not Pretty (Enough)": The Media, Low Self Esteem, Porn and Rush Limbaugh

Monday, May 12, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Sexuality/Relationships

The subconscious mind is one sneaky bastard.

Advertisers are well aware of this fact, spending obscene amounts of money on ad campaigns devoted to encouraging viewers to buy their products. Even restaurants embrace certain color schemes that subconsciously trigger hunger responses.

All of this pandering is very effective. Our brain is able to trick us into all kinds of things, especially when we don't know what it is we're responding to. 

But, it is more than just a drive to purchase. The way we see our world, and those around us, may change the way we think about ourselves....  continue reading

How To Deal With Fears, Phobias and Intrusive Thoughts: Exposure Therapy

Friday, May 09, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Treatment Techniques

This is my mother's all-time favorite joke:

Q: "Why don't cannibals eat clowns?"
A: "Because they taste funny!" 

Here's how it would go for someone with coulrophobia:
Q: "Why don't cannibals eat clowns?"
A: "Because clowns are fucking terrifying!" 

Clowns are one of the more common phobias, and it's easy to see why....  continue reading

From Good Babies to Bad Mothers: Behaviorism and the Influence of "Mommy Training" on Maternal Anxiety

Monday, May 05, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Psychology of Motherhood

Avoiding anxiety in parenting is essentially impossible because there is a discrepancy between internal drives, early modeling, social norms and societal goals that all compete. In recent human history, behaviorist thought has played a large role in altering the way we respond to internal cues about parenting, and many women enter therapy trying to field pressure from too many sources. Figuring out what those sources happen to be matters. There's a reason we feel like we're doing it wrong: according to some part of our brain, we totally are. 

Let me be clear that this is not an attack of a specific parenting model or ideal. It is also not to say that some forms of training are not useful. We evolved to watch those around us and model behaviors, learning how to parent through those interactions.

But our drives to attach are often at odds with the drives to fit into out current idea of what normal parenting looks like. And behaviorist mandates can create an additional layer of shame responses that some women may be susceptible to without even realizing it. This may be true whether they parent against the grain or not.

It is for those who are having trouble understanding their anxiety responses amidst competing drives that this post is for....  continue reading