|'Lightning bolts' in brain show learning in action
||Researchers have captured images of the underlying biological activity within brain cells and their tree-like extensions, or dendrites, in mice that show how their brains sort, store and make sense out of information during learning.
|Family income, parental education related to brain structure in children, adolescents
||Characterizing associations between socioeconomic factors and children's brain development, a team of investigators reports correlative links between family income and brain structure. Relationships between the brain and family income were strongest in the lowest end of the economic range -- suggesting that interventional policies aimed at these children may have the largest societal impact.
|Say ‘No’ to the Fiction of Brain Diseases
||During my lifetime I have witnessed the fall of Freudian psychiatry and the ascension of molecular psychiatry. Unfortunately, we have gone from the frying pan into the fire. We need to restore psychiatry where it belongs. The psychotherapy of character is an art and a science that bridges the old divide between psychotherapy and the brain.
|Surprising source of serotonin could affect antidepressant activity
||An unconventional way that serotonin is released from neurons could play an important role in the mechanism through which antidepressant drugs work, scientists report. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that plays a key role in regulating various emotions and behaviors. An imbalance in serotonin signaling is generally thought to contribute to depression.
|The #1 Problem that Causes Severe Anxiety
||One of the most common reasons why people seek out psychotherapy is because they struggle with anxiety. However, saying that someone has a problem with severe anxiety doesn’t really say much about what is it that the person is really struggling with. In my practice, I work with children, adolescents and adults, who experience...
|Did Mental Illness Make the Pilot Crash the Plane?
||Not all depressions are alike. Severe depression with psychotic features may elude a clinician as they are well masked or not present at the time of the exam. Symptoms ebb and flow, troubled people can be high functioning and we have much to uncover about the conditions of the Germanwings co-pilot.
|A Common Vitamin Deficiency Linked to Depression in Women
Very common vitamin deficiency linked to higher levels of depression..
» Continue reading: A Common Vitamin Deficiency Linked to Depression in Women
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|Specific neurotransmitter receptor supports optimal information processing in the brain
||Researchers have been fascinated for a long time by learning and memory formation, and many questions are still open. Now neuroscientists have discovered a key building block for this complex process. A particular neurotransmitter receptor, namely the metabotropic glutamate receptor 5, is a switch for activating opposing forms of plasticity in the hippocampus, a brain region vital for memory forming.
|World Bipolar Day 2015
||Today is World Bipolar Day, a day when we respect all those who live with this illness. I wanted to make this post a good one, one worth your time to read, so I thought the best thing I could do is explain my illness from the inside out. I...
|Practical Tools for Developing Your Self-Worth
||So many of us think we’re unworthy or worthless or not good enough. We might feel this way because of our past or mistakes we’ve made. We might feel this way because some people repeatedly told us we’re unworthy. Or because we haven’t accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. Or...
|Maybe Attention Deficit Is The Right Term
||I keep saying that we don’t have a deficit of attention, we have a deficit of attention control. What I mean by that is that people with ADHD don’t seem able to choose what to pay attention to and then maintain that attention. Instead, our attention is attracted by many...
|More on the Empowerment Mantra: I Am Choosing
||The most important reason to preface every behavior with I am choosing The power of this practice is that it allows you to take control of your life and step out of the poor me, helpless-hopeless, victim-type thinking that is all too common among those of us living with chronic...
|Germanwings crash response
||It’s World Bipolar Day. Before last week’s Germanwings tragedy, I had planned out this big post about how coming out about mental illness is freeing and can help decrease stigma. I still will at some point, but right now I want to talk about the conversations surrounding the tragedy. For...
|Seven Ways Mindfulness Can Help Teachers
||Over the course of my over forty years as an educator and researcher, I’ve learned that teachers are often incredibly altruistic and devoted to making a positive difference in children’s lives. But too many of them are not well prepared for the social and emotional demands of today’s classroom. Stressful conditions—like high-stakes testing or students with severe psychological problems—can lead us to feel discouraged, burnt-out, and ready to quit.
Most teacher training focuses primarily on content and pedagogy, overlooking the very real social, emotional, and cognitive demands of teaching itself. Luckily, learning and cultivating skills of mindfulness—the ability to stay focused on one’s present experience with nonjudgmental awareness—can help us to promote the calm, relaxed, but enlivened classroom environment that children need to learn. Mindfulness can also help us to be more effective at reducing conflict and developing more positive ways of relating in the classroom, which can help us feel more job satisfaction.
How does mindfulness do this? By training our minds consciously to become more aware of our inner and outer experience, and learning how to manage our emotions.
In my new book, Mindfulness for Teachers, I outline several mindfulness practices—including focused breathing, open awareness, loving-kindness, and others—that teachers can use in the classroom, whether they want to invoke a sense of mindfulness in the classroom or to become a more mindful person, in general. These practices can help a teacher to slip into a mindful presence when it’s most needed, allowing us to pay better attention to the learning environment and our students’ needs within the classroom.
Here are some of the many ways that developing mindfulness can help us be better teachers.
1. Mindfulness helps teachers understand our own emotions better
When I teach, I sometimes notice that my mind is so focused on thinking about what I need to do and how to do it that I’m not paying attention to the present moment. I have expectations about how things ought to be and I become attached to them, rather than noticing and accepting how things actually are.
This causes distress, making me emotionally volatile, which in turn affects my perceptions and makes me more sensitive to threat. I may imagine a student’s disruptive behavior is intentionally designed to interfere with my teaching when in fact it is the normal behavior of a child who needs help with his self-regulation. If I take his behavior personally, I may lose my temper and say something that makes matters worse.
Practicing mindfulness can help teachers to recognize our emotional patterns and proactively regulate how we behave, responding in the way we want to rather than reacting automatically. It can also help us to savor the positive moments in our job—when we feel the joy of true connection with our students or resonate with the joy and excitement our students feel when learning clicks for them.
2. Mindfulness helps us communicate more effectively with students
During my first year of teaching I had no idea how to get my students to pay attention to my lessons, respond to directions, or behave appropriately. I thought that if I was nice to my students, they would like me, want to please me, and do what I wanted them to do.
However, I was wrong. My students didn’t respond or behave that way at all, and, day by day, my frustration grew to the point where I was impatient and snapping at them.
One day a supervisor came to observe my teaching and gave me some important feedback: She told me that I was saying “okay?” at the end of many of my instructions to students, giving them the message that whatever I asked of them was optional. No wonder they were so unresponsive!
After that feedback, I began to monitor myself to break this bad habit, and this helped me see how mindful self-awareness could help me succeed as a teacher.
3. Mindfulness helps us manage students we find difficult
All teachers have problems with particular students who misbehave in the classroom. Mindful awareness helps us attend to what’s happening with a child to cause them to misbehave.
Sometimes students misbehave because the environment is inappropriate for their developmental stage—for example, we can’t expect kindergarteners to sit quietly listening to an adult talk for long periods of time. Children exposed to trauma in their lives tend to be hyper vigilant—which consumes a lot of cognitive resources, and can lead them to learn more slowly than other students or to be overly sensitive to changes in environment.
Nonjudgmental awareness is an important aspect of mindfulness, too—one that involves accepting things as they are in the present moment. When we first practice mindful awareness, we often notice how hard it is not to judge. But, as we observe ourselves engaging in judgment, we become more aware of it in the moment, our mind begins to settle, and eventually our tendency to judge subsides.
Judgment often induces feelings of guilt and shame. Sometimes teachers judge their students harshly and unconsciously use guilt and shame as management techniques with their students—probably because they’ve learned these techniques as a child from their own parents. But there’s plenty of evidence that this approach doesn’t work. Rather than encouraging children to behave, it promotes resentment, distrust, and retaliation.
Mindfully recognizing our emotional responses toward students may help us understand why they are behaving the way they are. If we feel annoyed, the behavior is likely attention seeking. If we feel threatened, the behavior is likely a bid for power. If we feel hurt, the behavior is likely an attempt at revenge, and if we feel discouraged, the student is likely giving up. These feelings can help us respond more appropriately to the underlying issues of our students, and help us shift from a negative appraisal to a state of compassion.
4. Mindfulness helps us set up a positive learning environment
There is a mistaken belief among many teachers that we can and must control our students’ behavior. This sets us up for power struggles, where our attempts to control are likely to backfire.
It’s far better to create and maintain an effective learning environment by learning to control ourselves. We can control how we communicate, how we behave and where we position our bodies in space. We can set and reinforce expectations and limits. And, we can control the classroom physical space so that it supports learning.
A kindergarten teacher I know couldn’t get his students to stop running in the classroom, even after repeated reminders, and he was getting very frustrated. But, once he became mindful of the fact that his classroom furniture was arranged to create distinct “runways” in the class space and remembered that children have a natural inclination to run in open spaces, he could see what needed to be done: he moved the furniture to block the runways, and the children stopped running.
Knowing what’s going on in your classroom and with your students is critical to your ability to orchestrate the social-emotional dynamics and the physical spaces that are conducive to learning. Practicing mindful awareness helps you develop the skill of paying attention in the present moment and learning to see what’s truly happening in your classroom, allowing you to come up with better solutions to problems you see.
5. Mindfulness helps strengthen our relationship with students
Research on effective classroom management points to the importance of teacher-student relationships. We can set up great management systems involving guidelines and limits, but if our students don’t trust and respect us or think we don’t respect them, we’re in for some challenges.
Giving each student our full mindful attention for even a short period of class time gives him or her the message “I see you.” By making a connection with our students, we let them know we value them as individuals.
Because the goal of school is learning, we naturally tend to signal to students that we value high academic achievement. However, we need to be mindful when we see students displaying non-academic attributes, such as helpfulness, friendliness, creativity, problem-solving, and conflict resolution, and to communicate that we value these as well. Students feel connection with teachers when they know their teachers truly see them and appreciate them.
6. Mindfulness helps us slow down when we need to
Sometimes as new teachers we can be overly concerned about getting through our lesson plans and can unconsciously start to rush. Slowing down and deliberately pausing for a moment of mindfulness can give us time to ask ourselves how we are feeling, what’s happening in the classroom, and what our students need at that particular moment. It also models mindfulness for our students.
The speed at which students process information varies. Some students process auditory information very quickly, while others tend to have more visual or sensory-motor strengths. Younger children require more time to process than older children, though adults often forget this. No matter their ages, students process information better when there are given a little extra time, and consciously creating pauses throughout a lesson helps support learning.
Too often teachers forget to pause after asking a question or interrupt student pauses and hesitations, not giving students a chance to think through their answers. Pausing is helpful during lecturing (to give students time to absorb the information and consolidate their thinking) and during student work periods (to give students uninterrupted time to figure things out for themselves). It can also generate feelings of suspense and expectation, enlivening the classroom.
If we rush because we are anxious, we may miss these opportunities to deepen learning. Mindfulness can teach us to wait and be patient and to time our pauses appropriately.
7. Mindfulness helps us build community
Students have a basic need to belong to and contribute to a community. We can foster a sense of community by modeling caring and other prosocial behaviors, instituting caring routines, and mindfully listening to our students.
To cultivate a community of learners, we can provide students with opportunities to collaborate with and help one another—for example by having students work together in groups where each student has a specific task that contributes toward the outcome. Collaborative learning gives students the opportunity to help others and to reflect on the experiences and needs of others, which promotes empathy and perspective taking.
Another way to build community among students is through joint service learning projects, where students work together on giving back in some way to their community. Mindfully taking note of different student strengths and challenges can help teachers make these shared work opportunities enrich student learning and can help build a positive classroom climate.
In all of these ways, mindfulness can help teachers to be the best they can be and bring out the best in their students. Being able to approach a classroom with a sense of calm understanding and the skills to intervene appropriately can make learning a pleasure for everyone.
|Does birth order affect your personality?
||Can the order of your birth affect your personality?The post Does birth order affect your personality? appeared first on PsyPost.
|Schizophrenia may get a name change
||The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines schizophrenia as “a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others.” But lately, more people are speaking out against the term schizophrenia — translated from the Greek phrase skhizein phren, or “to split mind” — [...]The post Schizophrenia may get a name change appeared first on PsyPost.
|High-fat foods may actually change who you are over time
||So often we hear about the negative effects of a high-fat diet: The more fatty foods we eat, the more we put ourselves at risk for diseases, such as obesity and heart disease. But do high-fat foods threaten our psyche, too? A study recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry hypothesized a high-fat diet produces [...]The post High-fat foods may actually change who you are over time appeared first on PsyPost.
|Fear the Future
||In our modern world, anxiety is a burden to many. In our past, however, it may have been the difference between life and death.
|Murder in a Locked Room:
||In a paradox worthy of Greek tragedy, the fortified cockpit door to Germanwings Flight 9525 invited the mass murder it was meant to prevent. Can we make sense of a co-pilot’s rampage?
|Misdiagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, Part II
||A case study illustrating comorbidity and distinctions between bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and attention deficit disorder.