PHILOSOPHICAL MEDITATION | when upset or anxious

PHILOSOPHICAL MEDITATION | when upset or anxious

– Our minds belong to us, but we do not always control or know what is in them
– can be difficult to not at times feel confused
– can be difficult at times to tell how we are feeling, & what is the meaning of those feelings
– unfocused thoughts constantly orbit our mind constantly
– we need to sort things out
– we need to get on top of things
– meditation as a solution to the chaotic mind
– in the Buddhist world view, anxieties & excitements are not trying to tell us anything especially interesting or valuable
– empty the mind of its confused content
– Western tradition of meditation – similar aim, but believes the anxieties & excitements are important signals about how we should direct our lives
– bring the troubles more securely into focus, & achieve calm through understanding our thoughts & feelings

Meditation requires:
– setting aside some time (20 minutes once per day)
– with pad & pencil to write your answers, ask yourself:
– what is it I regret, am sad, anxious or feel agitated about at present?
[because we are uncertain of meaning, it is best to write “unfiltered”]
[The practice can be comforting/rewarding & help stop us making grave errors in relation to having careers we do not really like]
– see below for specific instruction

Philosophic meditation helps us embark on life’s journey with the right equipment & the right map – it ensure we check our feelings, rather than just “trusting” them only to find ourselves somewhere we do not wish to be.

– argues it is not thinking too much that is the issue, but that we have not yet thought enough.

Philosophic meditation:
– 20 minutes per day
– ask yourself:
1. What am I currently upset about?
2. What am I currently anxious about?
3. What am I currently curious or excited about?
[Two or three words per each/Unprocessed]

Further questions for when upset [when unprocessed, bitterness, confusion & mis-directed aggression result]
– What scared you about the incident?
– You’ve been hurt. It’s normal to be hurt. How have you been hurt?
– What good part of yourself feels in danger?
– How might a nice person have ended up doing what this person did to you? If they were not actively mean, what other explanations could there be for the hurt they have caused?
– if this were to carry on, what would/might be the catastrophe?
– what are you afraid might happen if this were to continue?
– have you been affected like this before?
– if you had to pin down an incident in the past that this somehow reminds you of, what would it be? Is there a pattern here?
– if this had happened to a friend, how would you advise them?
– what might you be able to learn from this upset?

Questions for anxiety:
– tell the story of the coming anxious period in great detail & say exactly what you imagine might go wrong.
– what would happen to you if it did all go wrong?
– if this were to keep happening, then…
– the danger here is that…
– how might you still be ok, even if it was all absolutely terrible?
– how would the person you would ideally like to be, deal with this situation?
– what previous situation does this remind you of? Have you been in something like this before?
– what happened in the past?
– what helped in the past?

Questions for excitement:
– see article

[answering questions helps us begin to unscramble our thoughts & feelings so as to reduce anxiety & increase clarity]

Source: School of Life:


ABC RN MIRRORS OF THE MIND [language, empathy, neurological basis of ASD]

ABC RN MIRRORS OF THE MIND [language, empathy, neurological basis of ASD]

– mirror neurons – discovered in 1992 [monkey research in Parma, Italy]
– has taken psychology & neuroscience by “storm
– there was controversy about their existence in humans, but there is now scientific agreement that they exist
– when people extend hand, a person responds – this is mirror neurons in action
– evolution of language, empathy (theory of mind – reading another’s mind or being in another’s shoes) & the neurological basis of ASD
– based on simulating another’s experience – the mirror system
– they play a part in humans imitating others
– why some refer to us as homo imitatus
– mechanism to simulate what others are feeling – imitation is smart
– the chameleon effect – copy something/someone unconsciously
– autism is considered a break down of the mirror system – the “broken mirror theory”

Discussion with Professor Greg Hickock from Uni Calif Irvine
– has written a book about the myth of mirror neurons
– believes “the mirror system” has been over-sold & is a victim of over-reach
– he questions the interpretation, not the existence of mirror neurons – believes the theory falls short with language:
– babies cannot produce speech at 1 month old
– people with cerebral palsy
– people with facial paralysis
– watching sport is it motor imitation or sensory imitation (responding on a sensory level)?
– problems with broken mirror theory & autism
– “the intense world syndrome” – world is too intense for AD
– hyper-sensitive to external stimuli or hyper-empathic to other’s pain.

Source: All in The Mind; RN podcast; original broadcast date: 14 Dec 14

CBT Guide available –

This is an evidence-based, easy-to-understand Guide I have developed in relation to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, the gold standard when it comes to the treatment of psychological distress. 12 pages in length, just 4,200 words long, this guide represents a good investment in your health and well-being, not to mention your understanding of what CBT treatment typically involves. I hope you find it useful. Best wishes Mark – eBook available here using Paypal @

Interesting Radio National broadcast about differing views on what constitutes “success” in life

Source: Radio National Late Night Live broadcast: Australian Writer Kate Grenville…

Author discusses new biography “One Life” about her mother – differing views of success; struggles are part of life, as are reversls, importance of incremental steps

Broadcast date: 25 March 2015



Summary of article:
– negative thinking/self-talk undermines our happiness/success
– this can also include mantras (things you were told) from childhood
– 1980s – New Age positive self-talk/affirmations
– association for psychological science (US) says do not do these as they are so “unbelievable/not credible” for the person with low self-esteem that such talk serves merely to inadvertently reinforce the original negative self-belief
– article likens it to being told to not think of pink elephants & then all you can do is think bout pink elephants
– the new buzzword us “incremental” – don’t set goals too big – have a series of mini-goals, & just focus on one of these at a time
– watch also for the tyranny of “shoulds” & “musts” in relation to what you think you should/must do (they become a but like a parental/authority figure which a person rebels against/resists)
– important to praise ourselves for small personal gains made
– rather than focusing upon the gains that haven’t been made
– small steps are the bedrock of major gains


Anxiety – first steps [understand & reduce symptoms]

Anxiety – first steps [understand & reduce symptoms]

– Describes an emotional reaction to a perceived threat
– Often known as the fight/flight/freeze response
– It is adaptive and designed to protect you in the face of danger
– It is accompanied by physiological symptoms

– When the anxiety reaction becomes overly sensitive, it can disrupt normal life and become extremely debilitating for the individual

Panic Attack
– Is an extreme physical reaction
– the symptoms are as if there is a fear of dying or “going crazy”
– These attacks can happen often and in a variety of situations

To manage anxiety, an individual needs to understand:
– Their triggers
– The nature of their fears
– What they do to reduce anxiety (Avoidance; Reassurance seeking; Distraction; Thought suppression)

Anxiety Management
– Realistic thinking
– Exposure or engagement (That is, facing your fears)
– Learning new anxiety management techniques:
– Slow breathing
– Relaxation – to squeeze out the stress and let in relaxation
– Positive affirmations
– Goalsetting and planning
– Problem-solving

To begin with:
– Monitor your anxiety throughout the day
– Rate its severity out of 10
– Record your symptoms
– And finally, record the events that were taking place at the time

The aim is to increase your:
– Awareness of environmental triggers
– Awareness and recognition of your subjective levels of anxiety

Source: Mark Taylor Psychology @

Our Brain Sees Known Words as Pictures

Our Brain Sees Known Words as Pictures

Summary of article:
– no dedicated mechanism for reading given it is a fairly recent invention
– hypothesis that reading involves visual perception based on parts of brain that were activated (blood flow studies using fMRI)
– study conducted – evidence gained to support hypothesis where brain sees whole words, converts to pictures hence explaining why reading can occur quickly
– idea of the brain using a visual dictionary in the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) of the brain, located in the left side of the visual cortex approx behind the left ear [opposite, on the right hand side of the brain is the Fusiform Face area responsible for facial expression which allows humans to recognise faces quickly]
– fMRI study found people responded differently to real, whole words as opposed o nonsense words, or pseudo words such as “haric” (a common test in dyslexia/word recognition screens)
– saw how neurons learned & became “tuned” to new words
– could have implications for learning whole words as opposed to phonetic spelling


THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF WORKPLACE BULLYING [Association for Psychological Science]

THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF WORKPLACE BULLYING [Association for Psychological Science]

– study has found workplace bullying often becomes a vicious cycle, where the more anxious & stressed one becomes, the more likely they are to be targeted for more workplace bullying & abuse
– serious effect on the victim ranging from depression to burnout
– anxiety displayed by the victim makes them more vulnerable to further persecution
– hypothesis – the strain of dealing with bullying exhausts a worker’s mental resources, leaving them less able to stand up to abuse – the associated psychological stress leads to poorer work performance & less support from colleagues & supervisors
– bullying leads to victims having negative perceptions of their workplace, resulting in further personal stress & job negativity
– note: bullying did not necessarily predict the onset of depression
– victims of bullying require coping skills & social support


Depression – Warning Signs – most common symptoms

Depression – Warning Signs – most common symptoms

1. Self-Criticism
– tyranny of shoulds
2. Loss of Interest
– can exacerbate isolation
3. Significant Weight Changes
– lose interest in food
– emotional eating in a conscious effort to boost mood [American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – eating carbohydrates boosts temporarily serotonin]
– inactivity can boost weight gain
4. Unexplained aches & pains
– pain signals are amplified
– depressed people also typically have a lot more negative self-focus so are more likely to notice pain & concentrate upon them
5. Anger & irritability.
– both a symptom & contributor to depression
– recommends working through feelings of anger & resentment




– they represent nature in its most tranquil, gentle guise
– in our busy, practical age there is little encouragement to appreciate them
– clouds are forever changing & show us that things pass in time [perhaps like our moods? Our concerns?]
– clouds are in “constant drama” much like human beings
– clouds can provide a moment of relief for us
– clouds can help return us to a broader perspective
– an image of patience & resolution, of endurance (able to weather all conditions)
– western tradition – philosophy from books
– eastern tradition – philosophy also comes from nature
– trees provide us with education about the cycle of life as well – that change is unstoppable
– & that change needs to be accepted rather than thought of as a catastrophe
– always communicating, chattering, whispering, arguing, dozing, confiding, shouting
– provide an object of contemplation when we are trying to think
– their constant activity enlivens our imagination
– they can provide us with the opportunity to develop insight, but we need to be careful to capture such insights or they too will slip away like the water in the stream
– article suggests rituals to remind ourselves to engage with nature
– clouds, trees & streams provide us with opportunities to contact calm & reason, tenderness & thoughtfulness


THE BRAIN – the origin of consciousness

THE BRAIN – the origin of consciousness

– 2 theories: regional (focal) & global neural activity
– study used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology hitch measures changes in blood oxygenation in areas of the brain
– supported idea that awareness was linked to global activity in neural networks across the brain
– this finding is in addition to knowledge about distinct areas of the brain being responsible for particular cognitive functions such as attention, language & control
– conscious awareness seems o break down the modularity of these functions




– memories operate on a one-in, one-out policy
– recall leads to the forgetting of others
– known as active forgetting
– regarding trauma, it is important to prevent the intrusive memories of those traumas intruding upon & dominating their everyday life
– reminders, flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares




– Mark Twain: Worrying is like paying a debt that you do not owe
– Occasional wearing may serve a coping function, helping a person to think & plan ahead
– too much & it becomes distracting, impeding productivity, concentration & affecting mood
– chronic worry can derail a person’s life – aka Generalised Anxiety Disorder
– Often runs in families (a general anxious apprehension)
– Often diagnosed with depression
– Worry is a devious foe
– People who worry a lot most often see their fears or worries come to nothing
– i.e. most catastrophic situations do not materialise
[note the negative reinforcer – leading to the mistaken belief that worrying means things do not turn out bad][correlation is confused with causation]
– research shows that worry hinders rather than aids effective problem-solving
– over time worry morphs from habit into a requirement born of superstition
– worrying also provides short-term stress relief through avoidance & works again as a negative reinforcer/reward system
– this sets up a worry cycle as difficult to break as drug addiction
– suddenly switching to not worrying can be very disconcerting for the person leading to worrying about worrying
– because old habits die hard

– Treatment used to advocate thought suppression (deny, ignore, avoid)
– no longer supported, & thought it may magnify anxiety
– NOW: engage such thoughts in conversation & examine them, question them (& challenge) with real life/world evidence

– Barlow – 2 cognitive Distortions:
1. Over-estimation bias
[the voice of worry ignores actual probabilities & instead imagines & predicts imminence]
2. Catrastophising bias
[consequences are imagined to be negative & extreme – the voice of worry ignores gradations & imagines the worst]

-In real life not all situations are bad &
– not all bad situations are imminent or extreme
– Living requires taking on low-probability risk everyday
– for e.g. – taking a shower could see a person slip & break their neck, but the likelihood is low & the risk is therefore deemed worth it (I.e. taking the shower)
– accurately calculating the odds is crucial to a human being’s decision-making ability & calculation of risk so that we can function/engage in life while exercising judgment:
– low-risk activities we engage in
– high-risk activities we avoid (or not worth taking the risk)

2 questions need to be asked:
– how likely is it really?
– how bad is it really?
[so as to guide the person to see, contrary to their cognitive Distortions, most high likelihood events are not terrible & most terrible events are not likely]

– we are not looking to counter negative thoughts with positive thoughts necessarily, but rather realistic thoughts so that a person can determine for themselves the following:
A. An event may be imminent, but mundane
B. some events are not the end of the world, but are just the world
C. Some potentially catastrophic events can be disregarded (not worried about), because on the whole they are mundane events that need to be done as part of everyday life
D. Some events we believe to be catastrophic are not so at all

SOURCE: Psychology Today @

Insomnia – CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) Treatment

Insomnia – CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) Treatment

– insomnia is trouble falling sleep, staying asleep, awakening too early, or any combination of all three
– sleep difficulties typically last longer than one week
– effects:
– not feeling refreshed after sleep
– energy
– mood
– ability to function at work, school & in general life

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine & the National Institute of Health recommend two therapies:
– doctor-prescribed sleep medication (short-duration only); &
– CBT which looks at:
– providing psychoeducation about insomnia
– sleep behaviours
– Excessive time in bed
– Irregular sleep schedules
– sleep incompatible activities
– hyperarousal
– sleep thoughts
– unrealistic sleep expectations
– misconceptions about sleep
– sleep-related worries
– poor coping skills
– sleep behaviours
– inadequate sleep hygiene
– lifestyle factors (caffeine, alcohol, exercise)
– environmental factors (bedding, lighting, noise)

Other questions to consider:
– What triggered your insomnia?

Please note I have conducted sleep clinics as part of my psychologist training here in Australia.

Treatments for anxiety

Treatments for anxiety

Treatment depends on the type of anxiety being experienced:
– Mild symptoms can be relieved with lifestyle changes such as regular exercise
– Gold Standard – Cognitive behaviour therapy
– Thinking and behaviour affect how you feel
– Types of thinking being engaged in (often automatically)
– what are productive & non-productive worries
– Relaxation and breathing techniques to manage anxiety & relieve physical tension
– The behaviour therapy component focuses on behaviour activation to increase a person’s level of activity & engagement in pleasurable activities
– graded exposure to feared situations

Other things to consider: family, friends, support, relaxation, exercise, eating well, mindfulness

Types of anxiety:
– GAD: frequently worrying & being worried about a number of events & activities
– OCD: obsessions (frequent thoughts, images or impulses) ‘/or compulsions (repetitive behaviours or mental acts) to manage the obsessions
– Panic Disorder with or without agoraphobia: regular & unexpected panic attacks – may also be accompanied by anxiety & avoidance places, situations & people
– PTSD: experiencing distressing memories, increased physical &mental tension, & avoidance of places, people & feelings related to a traumatic event where the person felt extreme fear, powerlessness or terror
– Social Anxiety Disorder: noticeable & constant fear of one or more social or performance situations
– phobia: fear of object or non-social situation, often leading to avoidance

Source: Beyond Blue

Once I just get this done, everything will be perfect

Once I just get this done, everything will be perfect

– one thing can never be everything
– for most of us, stressful life events are a hassle rather than a horror
– take a step back & appreciate what is not stressful in your life at such times
– when overwhelmed, take inventory of everything that is good in your life
– do this, particularly when you are very busy or sleep- deprived


Insomnia – CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) Treatment

Insomnia – CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) Treatment

– insomnia is trouble falling sleep, staying asleep, awakening too early, or any combination of all three
– sleep difficulties typically last longer than one week
– effects:
– not feeling refreshed after keep
– energy
– mood
– ability to function at work, school & in general life

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine & the National Institute of Health recommend two therapies:
– doctor-prescribed sleep medication (short-duration only); &
– CBT which looks at:
– providing psychoeducation about insomnia
– sleep behaviours
– Excessive time in bed
– Irregular sleep schedules
– sleep incompatible activities
– hyperarousal
– sleep thoughts
– unrealistic sleep expectations
– misconceptions about sleep
– sleep-related worries
– poor coping skills
– sleep behaviours
– inadequate sleep hygiene
– lifestyle factors (caffeine, alcohol, exercise)
– environmental factors (bedding, lighting, noise)

Other questions to consider:
– What triggered your insomnia?

Please note I have conducted sleep clinics as part of my psychologist training here in Australia.

Building a Brain – “our brain is a great computer because it is a great guesser”

Building a Brain – “our brain is a great computer because it is a great guesser”

brain programs around the world:
– international movement focusing on:
1) how to use information to get good results for people with mental illness &
2) can we understand what is going on in the brain which makes us human (at a cellular level in real time)
– moving beyond MRI which measures blood flow rather than neuronal activity itself
– at moment we have symptoms & neuronal chemicals
– an individual neuron has approx 30 connections each x billions of neurons
– bionic eyes are being developed
– neurons are context dependant – same neuron perform different functions at different times
– super-computers cannot at present simulate the brain (insufficient memory; incredible data requirement; will need to have interactive supercomputers with new software)
– assist in the diagnosis of brain diseases
– cognitive architectures – a chip on your computer to perform particular functions
– “our brain is a great computer because it is a great guesser”
– consciousness – is a special state where neurons are collectively working together
– decision-making states and all the other states our brain assumes to do something
– philosophers, ethicists, psychologists, neuroscientists are working together in this research

Source: broadcast date 8 June 2014 on RN’s Australian version of the BBC’s All in the Mind program

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guide – NOW AVAILABLE

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guide – NOW AVAILABLE

Hello – I thought I should let readers know I have developed a little publication called: “What is cognitive behavioural therapy? A 2015 Research- based Easy-To-Read Guide to Understanding Cognitive Behavioural Therapy”.

It is available from the following link eBay Australia using Paypal @

Cost is $9.95 AUD & contents include:
– CBT Basics, including cognitive triad, underlying principles & treatment approach
– blueprint of CBT, including tools & why it is helpful
– why CBT works – focus upon beliefs, thoughts & behaviours
– automatic thoughts
– Types of distorted or unhelpful thinking
– Call beliefs
– Map for therapy
– Utility of mindfulness based CBT techniques
– CBT online apps
– List of resources typically used as part of CBT

– Australian psychological Society
– Australian family physician pod cast
– Clinical psychiatry new
– People psychology podcast
– Beyond blue
– Back Institute
– Positive psychology
– The bulletin of the Australian psychological Association
– Bath pod public lecture
– Radio National – the prison of depression podcast
– Judith Beck CBT: basics and beyond
– Stanford University podcast video lecture series
– Hugh Mackay: the good life what makes life worth living



Dr Beck believes anger results hen a person:
– feel they are being devalued & that this is wrong
– results in drop in self-esteem
– capture feeling & the belief (often exaggerated)
– automatic thoughts arise – need to capture [see Ways to Elicit Automatic Thoughts]
Remember too the ABC Model:
– A for Activating event
– B for thought/underlying belief
– C for consequence

– often people believe A leads automatically to C, but there is B (mindfulness can assist in capturing

Ways to Elicit Automatic Thoughts
– therapy can assist you to capture during therapy (imagine & role play – I.e. in vivo recretion in sessionso as to discover the automatic thoughts

Automatic Thoughts
– ask yourself: what specific thoughts am I having now [writing can assist in identifying out of session – assists in identifying cognitive distortions
– you can also notice a change in affect
– can also be referred to as NATs [Negative Automatic Thoughts]

Record, Rationalise & Replace (3 columns on one page)
– record in detail
– rationalise (label type of ST)
– replace (dispute/assess against facts/evidence)

– Mindreading/assuming
– shoulds, musts, oughts – perfection
– over-generalise
– catastrophise

Sources: Beck institute video for A COGNITIVE EXPLANATION FOR ANGER & HOSTILITY, Ways to Elicit Automatic Thoughts, Automatic Thoughts video

Beck Institute videos [various] – CBT

Publication2ZJ – Anger Diary | – Sleep Diary – relaxation diary | – positive diary – behavioural activation diary | – my CBT workbook – confidence boosters | – anger management guide

Beck Institute videos [various]
1. CBT in the treatment of depression
– case formulation
– DO NOT use thought record
INSTEAD – behavioural activation is where you begin, including in the office [
– often client is feeling hopeless & wanting to give up
– Q: what would you think if I said that if you follow a few simple instructions you will be able to get of of bed, play ping pong etc.,?
– let’s do a behaviour experiment -‘sit up, in the edge if the bed & put your 2 feet down. Now try standing up. What do the experiments show you?
– activity scheduling with severely depressed
– thought records with moderately depressed people
– get them invested in something outside of themselves (particularly if they are ruminators] – invest in something outside of the tidal wave
– grounding – look, point, name
– thought record – helps in seeing/working out alternate explanation
E.g. Dr – each time You see a patient, Write down if it is pleasurable or not, Whether it added to your sense of mastery
Note: behavioural activation is a form of cognitive restructuring because the patient believed he could not get up.

– work with patient to develop a schedule
– engagement: follow-through

2. Cognitive Restructuring in CBT [or alternative explanations/sensitive challenging/evidence for something]
– what went through your mind?
– when a person is depressed they have a 1 track mind (tunnel vision) [the walls preclude other information coming in]

3. CBT in Substance Abuse
– case formulation
– generic cognitive model
Situation – thoughts – mood/feelings – behaviour – physical reactions
– craving is so strong, it’s ok to give in to it (this time) or I’ll start tomorrow [known as permission-giving]
– experiential/exposure &then going away from it

4. Restructuring Negative Core Beliefs
– core beliefs never go away, but they become latent/quiet
– schemas & core beliefs are essentially the same
– therapy builds up a wall around the negative schema so that it remains inactive
– resilience & positive attitudes de-activate the schema
– restructuring the event
– are there alternative explanations
– does it logically follow?

5. Negative Core Beliefs in CBT
– usually strong/robust & prevails even across relatively neutral situations

6. The Utility of Mindfulness-based CBT Techniques
– Beck: CBT approach of alternate explanation, evidence, application of logic made it worse for cases of Obsessive forms of anxiety (OCD) – belief something bad will happen, I am a terrible person for having such thoughts, by having these thoughts it will come true
– a meditative/mindfulness approach gets the person free – to de-couple from this kind of thinking (round & round/ruminative type thinking)
– mindfulness gives symptomatic relief – does not in & of itself solve the presenting problem, but provides a foundation upon which to work with the cognitive approach

7. Automatic Thoughts in CBT (parts 1 & 2)
– our thoughts are often inaccurate representations of reality
– feelings are not facts
– we have streams of thoughts all the time (Mind is always active)
– not only not necessary to look at all the thoughts, but it is paralysing to do it
– only look at automatic thoughts that have some kind of unpleasant affect/behaviour (I.e. interfering thoughts that stop you proceeding with what you want to do)
– if anxious
– what was the thought behind it
– conduct some form of reality test – e.g. If x happens, so what? What’s the consequence?
– facilitate problem-solving to correct the automatic thought

– patient-centred : patients themselves decide what they want to work on

8. Evaluating Unhelpful Automatic Thoughts in CBT
– is this productive thinking? [much of what people think is not productive]
– ACT – notice the thought, accept the thought, but not pay too much attention to it

9. The Relationship Between CBT & Neuroscience
– has written 3 papers supporting it
– neuroscience confirms CBT works, but neuroscience has not added to CBT, but has shown that biologically, due to particular gene expression, that some respond more to behavioural activation rather than cognitive restructuring & vice-versa

10. Ways to elicit Automatic Thoughts
– why should we believe what the patient reports? Perhaps it is just something they have read, because it is what they think you expect them to say
– recover in therapy by asking questions
– or you can use imagery (imagine/re-imagine the scenario)
– or we role-play, then you tell me what your automatic thoughts are (do in vivo, then able to do in their life at large)

11. The Blueprint of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
– it’s not just a toolbox of techniques
– CBT is an architecture
– individuals in the course of their development experience certain vulnerabilities
– mal-adaptive attitudes/inflexible beliefs
– can permeate their whole personality leading to a personality disorder
– negative attitudes can be activated by a whole series of things that can impinge on an individual’s ability to function
– perception of all events in a biased way & spreads to other areas
– reality is distorted by internal workings of the mind
– cognitive restructuring – no longer seeing things as just mainly black or white
– changes biased beliefs of I’m no good/unloveable etc.,
– change in attitudes & beliefs/perceptions (I.e. see the positive too)
– people who are depressed see things negatively

APHORISMS ( Short sentences that capture a large truth)

APHORISMS ( Short sentences that capture a large truth)

– The proof of good parenting – the child has no desire to be famous [F. Scott Fitgerald]
– The true indicator of a man’s character is the health of his wife. [Cyril Connolly]
– We all have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others [de la Rochefoucald]
– What is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears [Seneca]
– The Only people we can think of as normal At those we don’t yet know very well. [Freud]
– Insomnia is the nights revenge for all the thoughts we forgot to have in the day [Mailer]
– There are some people who would never have fallen in love – If they hadn’t heard there was such a thing. [de la Rochefoucald]
– We keep a special place in our hearts for people who refuse to be impressed by us. [de la Bruyere]
– The best vaccine against anger is to watch others in its throes.[Proust]

Source: School of Life @



– depression is not a weakness, is not a moral shortcoming, is not something people have brought on themselves – it is an illness
– mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma & bias shame us all


Publication1BDThe power of believing that you can improve

Carol Dweck (psychologist & researcher in the area of human motivation) presented in relation to the “growth mindset” (the understanding at our talents & our abilities can be developed) v’s a “fixed mindset” perspective (where people “run” from challenge)
– the grade of “not yet” meaning that you are always learning/striving to do better & achieve the best you can as part of a “learning curve”
– the person with the “growth mindset” engages with mistakes, processes the error, learns from the error & corrects the error
– Dweck suggests the following:
– Praise wisely
– not praising intelligence or talent
– praise the process that the child engages in
– praise effort, strategies, focus, perseverance, attention & improvement (not A’s)
– praise kids when they show they are hardy & resilient
– use words such as “yet” & “not yet” to build confidence & encourage persistence
– neurological development is promoted by attempting challenging things/going outside the comfort zone – neuroplasticity & new connections

Source: TED talk @

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD – FOUR CORNERS BROADCAST

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD – FOUR CORNERS BROADCAST

– psychological injury of veterans is real
– homelessness a real issue for some returning vets
– vet with story about flashbacks & insomnia/nightmares (recurring)
– medical discharge
– broke
– homelessness
-estranged from family
– suicidal ideation
– St John of God Hospital – group therapy (filmed)
– soldiers, fire-fighters, police
– described their experiences
– violence/sexual abuse background (soldier/vet referred to earlier)
– group rules
-nature of PTSD – clinical psychologist talks to the group
– fight/Flight/Freeze system – leading to terror or horror response for veterans, with ongoing thoughts, (system gets locked on & doesn’t go away once danger is no longer there – a survival system is no longer working effectively)
– PTSD makes highly-effective people unable to function
Trauma memories are totally different to normal memories
– trauma memories get frozen, the memories when triggered turn the system on
– engage the memories/visualise the memories in greater & greater detail so as to take the power away from the memory
– as much detail as you can – what thinking & feeling (exposure therapy)
– anxiousness will be experienced
– 2nd vet’s experience:
– swinging moods
– meltdowns/explode
-isolates himself
– does not like crowds/noise
– story of a meltdown in a theme park
– felt he was attacked by his son whom he nearly punched (impacted on the child)
– marriage breakdown
– went to a Mental Health Unit upon return to Australia
– stigma attached to mental illness
– lost his career / no assistance in transitioning to civilian life
– anger/anxiety
– psychiatrist session
– separate thought from emotion (the training of the warrior)

3rd vet’s story of repeated deployments to Afghanistan:
– aggressive, wound up, confused, emotionally detached resorted to alcohol abuse
– discipline impacts upon the child & the partners
– PTSD requires constant monitoring, medication – no cure in his opinion
– concept in war: “blooding” – lock away the emotions & continue on with the mission
– Tried to not feel & process his emotions while he was there
– culture – not disclosing feelings – stigma/career-destroying

Soldier On was interviewed in relation to a soldier & his interactions with bureaucracy

PTSD associated with depression & the abuse of alcohol

Source: FOUR CORNERS – ABC-TV broadcast date: 9 March 2015

Parents who “over-value” children may turn them into Narcissists

Interesting study including comments by Professor Mark Dadds who discusses the risk of “over-valuing” children, while noting the need to value children, praise them & let them know of their self- worth.


A-HA PARENTING: 10 THINGS TO DO INSTEAD OF PUNISHING YOUR CHILD [change from punitive to empathic parenting]

A-HA PARENTING: 10 THINGS TO DO INSTEAD OF PUNISHING YOUR CHILD [change from punitive to empathic parenting]

– His actions have an impact on the world
– He can always choose his actions
– He is responsible for his actions
– Everyone makes mistakes
– When mistakes happen, you have to repair them
– Cleaning up mistakes is harder than choosing the right action
– Reflect on their actions to make better choices next time
– It takes courage to do the right thing
– When we make responsible, considerate choices we become the person we wish to admire
– And we feel better about ourselves

1. Move from anger to empathy
– if the child expects judgment & punishment, they are less inclined to open up
– & opening up is necessary to gain insight into the child’s thinking & feelings
2. Connect
– if child is worried you will get upset, the child goes into fight/flight/freeze mode & shuts down.
– If you need more time – take it to come down and manage your anger
– Aim is to find out the child’s reason for acting the way they did
– it may not seem a good reason to you, but it is their reason, & it provides the start point for problem-solving
3. Tell your child you want to hear his thoughts about what happened
– let him talk
– reflect back your understanding
4. Keep your thoughts on connection and learn about what happened from his perspective
– Kids know what is the right choice but something gets in the way
– What was it that got in the way?
– how can he address this so it doesn’t happen again?
– Punishment does not help the parent gain insight
– Does not help the child problem solve themselves – In fact it often involves covering up.
5. Ask open ended questions to keep the conversation light & safe
– Share a laugh
– Remind him that this is a growth experience for both of you
– Were you aware of making the choice?
– What led him to the choice?
– What does he think about it now?
– Was there a cost to making that choice?
– Would he do it again?
– Why or why not?
– How could he support himself to choose differently next time?
6. Empower your child to repair “ruptures” – ask:
– What can you do now to fix the problem?
– Did this incident show you Anything in your life you want to change? That’s bigger than just this one incident?
– How can I support you?
7. Resist the urge to jump in with punishments – Instead be quiet and listen
– discipline is not about punishment
– it’s about helping the child realise what he does has consequences & impacts upon others
– about taking responsibility to have a positive rather than a negative impact
– avoid being too heavy as it places the child on the defensive
8. Validate even when he feels there is nothing to repair, or is unable to repair
– calm down (child and parent)
– talk empathically
– help child express & process feelings
9. Step into your own power
– you are the parent
– about supporting the child & making them feel secure
– some children just require more support
10. Expect an adjustment period
– “best you can” parenting
– moving from punitive parenting will mean the child stops obeying out of fear
– more misbehaviour is to be expected
– stay empathic & do not take “perceived rudeness” personally
– stay compassionate
– welcome upset feelings so they open up to you
– you are changing your habits – if you change, the child changes


Child’s Brain Development – Mind the Bump / Beyond Blue

Mark Taylor Psychology

Child’s Brain Development – Mind the Bump / Beyond Blue

– Mindfulness for optimal child development
– Research is showing parents who use mindfulness skills increase the likelihood of raising children/adolescents who are emotionally resilient
– We all know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and confused
– we all Also know how reassuring it is when we are able to respond with calm flexibility
– when we do this, we are using our frontal lobes
– we also know that babies, children & adolescents do not have fully-developed frontal lobes & This part of the human brain is not hardwired until the human being is in their early 20s
– neuroscience: humans Have the ability to influence the development of each other’s brains
– mirror neurones
– when a baby is distressed & crying, similar reactions of fear & distress are aroused in the parent
– babies are…

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Getting grief right

Getting grief right

– written by a psychotherapist
– Stages of grief: Denial, anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
– Cultural expectation About grief – Put it behind you and get on with life
– Coping through acting better than you feel – This can be exhausting
– Approach: tell me your story (The narrative of your life)
– validate the person’s experience
– In therapy stages of grief, Self-diagnosis & societal expectations do not matter – you can surrender to your sorrow
– Grief is as unique as a fingerprint – That is we all do it differently & in our own time
– The story of loss has three chapters:
1. The strength of the bond with the person who has been lost
– the degree of attachment & strength of grief are linked
– The size of their grief is attached to the size of their love
2. The death event itself
– when death is traumatic & premature, the person often questions their sanity
3. The long road that beings when the outside world stops grieving with you
– reassuring others you are ok is often exhausting when you really need to sink into your sadness & grieve & accept
– Support groups can be useful – to learn from others that closure is not wanted because it means closing off a sacred bond
– Isak Dinesen (Writer) “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them.”
– There is no right or wrong way to grieve
– There is no pressure to move on
– There is no shame in intensity or duration
– Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning, & all the experiences of grief become part of the narrative of love for the one who died.


I Matter app – positive conversations about relationships

I attended an excellent MHPN webinar about DV matters in particular, however this could prove useful nonetheless. The I Matter app is an interactive virtual library of articles/quizzes etc., about what constitutes positive a positive relationship, together with the idea of boundary crossings and when what one believes is a loving relationship becomes a controlling, abusive relationship. The idea is there is never any consent to abuse in a relationship.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guide – NOW AVAILABLE

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guide – NOW AVAILABLE

Hello – I thought I should let readers know I have developed a little publication called: “What is cognitive behavioural therapy? A 2015 Research- based Easy-To-Read Guide to Understanding Cognitive Behavioural Therapy”.

It is available from the following link eBay Australia using Paypal @

Cost is $9.95 AUD (12 pages, 4200 words) & contents include:
– CBT Basics, including cognitive triad, underlying principles & treatment approach
– blueprint of CBT, including tools & why it is helpful
– why CBT works – focus upon beliefs, thoughts & behaviours
– automatic thoughts
– Types of distorted or unhelpful thinking
– Core beliefs
– Map for therapy
– Utility of mindfulness based CBT techniques
– CBT online apps
– List of resources typically used as part of CBT

– Australian psychological Society
– Australian family physician pod cast
– Clinical psychiatry new
– People psychology podcast
– Beyond blue
– Back Institute
– Positive psychology
– The bulletin of the Australian psychological Association
– Bath pod public lecture
– Radio National – the prison of depression podcast
– Judith Beck CBT: basics and beyond
– Stanford University podcast video lecture series
– Hugh Mackay: the good life what makes life worth living

Re-Reading is Inefficient – 8 Steps for Studying Smarter – ability, intelligence, & learning are related to how you approach learning – i.e. working smarter.

Publication1BHRe-Reading is Inefficient – 8 Steps for Studying Smarter – ability, intelligence, & learning are related to how you approach learning – i.e. working smarter.

Active learning strategies are recommended on the basis of psychological research. Such strategies include: flash cards, diagramming & quizzing yourself so as to discover gaps.

Summary of main points:
1. Don’t just re-read class notes, assignments & text book chapters
– most students report this is there number one go to strategy.
– Research shows the second reading is often cursory because it creates the false impression that you know it, when in fact there are most likely gaps in your knowledge

2. Ask yourself lots of questions. Better to read once & ask yourself lots of questions.
– retrieving information actually helps with memory consolidation
– when you get it wrong, it provides an accurate diagnostic for what you do not know.
– questions to ask yourself are: Why? How? What?
[so instead of reading & skimming, ask yourself questions to aid your understanding

3. Connect new information to what you already know.
– on the second reading, relate new information to material you already know

4. Draw out the information in a visual form
– use drawings, diagrams, flow charts, visual models
– very effective for memory retention
[more engaged learning rather than passive learning]

5. Flash cards so you can re-test yourself (even for those things you get right)
– repeating is good for memory retrieval

6. Don’t cram – space out your study & repetition to aid memory retention

7. Teachers should do this too – that is go over things in class & in homework

8. No such thing as a maths person.
– Carol Dweck from Stanford University has researched student mindsets about learning where they typically fall in one of two categories:
– fixed learning – i.e. “I have a certain amount of talent for this topic.” – Where beyond a certain point, the student thinks they can no longer learn/develop.
– growth mindset – learning involves using effective strategies, putting aside time to do the work, & engaging in the learning process so you learn & develop. [generally becoming more successful students who persevere]




1) A.A. MILNE – Winnie the Pooh:
“Promise me you will Remember you are braver than you think; stronger than you seem; smarter than you think.”

2) Dr Seuss – Horton Hears a Who
“A person’s a person no matter no matter how small.”

3) Aesop – The Lion & the Mouse
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

4) A.A. MILNE – Winnie the Pooh:
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

5) Roald Dahl – The Twits
“If you have good thoughts thy will shine out of your face like sunbeams & they will look lovely.”

6) Dr Seuss – Oh the Places You’ll Go
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who will decide where you will go.”


TEDX Cambridge – Talks to Understand How We Work & How to Work Better Together [PART ONE]

TEDX Cambridge – Talks to Understand How We Work & How to Work Better Together [PART ONE]

Summary of talks:
Linda Hill (Management Visionary, Business Professor)
– studies “leaders of innovation”
– across industries & across different countries
– to have innovative organisations (creating new & useful products & services) will require humans to “un-learn” their traditional notions of leadership, leadership teams & “brains trusts” more generally [as well as the focus on who is right & who us winning; not setting a direction & ensuring no one deviated from it.]
– ideas such as creating a vision [often to be innovative, this “vision” is hazy at best
– innovation is not about individual genius but collective genius
– cites example of company that has created computer-generated movies & made the genre mainstream
– process cannot typically be condensed to a “neat series of steps” (typically process is iterative, inter-related & messy)
– movie shots – some quick, others not; some shot in order, but most not – scene/content dependent
– leadership must allow individuals to contribute their “slice of genius”
– at the heart of innovation is a paradox – individual creativity & harnessing for one particular piece of work
– innovation is a journey – a collaborative problem-solving among people who have different expertise & points of view
– trial & error, false starts, & mistakes are typical (exhilarating & scary for individuals simultaneously)
– she states successful innovative organisations have three capabilities:
1. Creative Abrasion (creative marketplace of ideas through debate & discourse – amplifying difference, rather than minimising difference; it is not brainstorming where people suspend judgment, but discussion based on expertise to create options – based on diversity & subject matter conflict)
2. Creative Agility (testing & refining the ideas & options; reflect & adjust based on learning through discovery, rather than planning a future; running a series of experiments rather than pilots)
3. Creative Resolution (decision-making; “no going along to get along”; no individual or group is allowed to dominate; decisions not the sole province of the boss, but rather more inclusive)
She cites another company – this time a well known search engine company:
– allowing talented people to play out their passions

Innovative organisations allows people to be creative & be willing to use that creativity o solve problems

New leadership looks like:
– building a sense of community – a world to which people want to belong, like a public square where people will interact
– building the three capabilities
– anyone, regardless of role/level, can contribute
– where all “disruptors & minority voices can speak up & be heard”
– talented people “don’t want to follow, they want to co-contribute”
– “nurture the bottom up”
– not a dictator of viewpoints, but rather an aggregator of viewpoints
– hire people who argue with you
– “the social architect rather than the visionary”
– not having everyone “looking up (to the boss)” but outwards – unleash the power of the many & release the stranglehold of the few


CRIPPLING WORKLOAD – Mental Illness in the Australian Workplace (RN ABC)

CRIPPLING WORKLOAD – Mental Illness in the Australian Workplace (RN ABC)

– mental illness – main reason workers take extended sick leave &/or become incapacitated (research by dr Sam Harvey, Psychiatrist – based on national health surveys conducts in the period 2001 to 2011)
– costs also for the economy ($10.9 Bn annually cited – source: The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance)
– affects 1 in 5 workers annually
– stigma/prejudice still present
– cites case of teacher not being supported in workplace
– high rates of depression within the law & Federal Court Judge’s own experience with depression (Justice Shane Marshall), as well as instances of bullying
– mental illness extends across all industries
– dr Harvey – mental illness accounts for 10% of workers compensation claims & 1/3 of workers compensation budgets (reason cited: psychological injury takes longer to recover from than physical injury; figures cited – 14.2 weeks away from work when a psychological injury c/w 4.8 weeks lost from work for a muscular-skeletal injury)
– professor from Deakin Uni – costs of mental illness are tip of iceberg when one considers issues of turn-over, retraining, & “presenteeism”; also states he believes that – due to stigma – for every one workers compensation claim (psychological injury) made, some 30 go unreported
– makes point about job strain arising as a result of people having high-demanding jobs, but little control about how to get the job done
– cites figures that such work conditions exist for approx 22% of women & 18% of men
– mental illness in the workplace is often ignored as a health & safety problem


How your job can be positive for your mental health – suggestions fom Headpace

Employment can assist with mental health recovery while continuing to provide the individual with financial security.

summary of article:

– work provides structure & routine

– work provides/contributes a sense of meaning & purpose

– provides opportunities for social inclusion & support

Possible barriers:

– reduced self-confidence

– peer pressure/social stigma & possible discrimination from employer &/or colleagues

– uncertainty about support available

– continuing concerns that workplace stress issues have not been adequately addressed, coupled with loss of connection with work & colleagues

Plan RTW (Return to Work)

– regular catch-ups ith employer/colleagues so as to “stay in the loop”

– letting employer know if you wish to receive visits from colleagues

– consider letting employer contact GP

reources are also available from the link, plus a personal story video, advice on making adjustments & workplace rights
Source: Headspace & beyond blue @

The Blueprint of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy [Beck Institute]

The Blueprint of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
– it’s not just a toolbox of techniques
– CBT is an architecture
– individuals in the course of their development experience certain vulnerabilities
– mal-adaptive attitudes/inflexible beliefs
– can permeate their whole personality leading to a personality disorder
– negative attitudes can be activated by a whole series of things that can impinge on an individual’s ability to function
– perception of all events in a biased way & spreads to other areas
– reality is distorted by internal workings of the mind
– cognitive restructuring – no longer seeing things as just mainly black or white
– changes biased beliefs of I’m no good/unloveable etc.,
– change in attitudes & beliefs/perceptions (I.e. see the positive too)
– people who are depressed see things negatively

Concerns mandatory reporting is putting doctors at risk – Radio National [calls for change to laws & working environments]

Concerns mandatory reporting is putting doctors at risk – Radio National [calls for change to laws & working environments]

– conundrum – mandatory reporting forces doctors to hide mental illness from other doctors for fear of being mandatorily reported
– doctors are traveling to WA for treatment of their own mental health issues to avoid mandatory reporting which applies in other states – this is because WA is exempt from the mandatory reporting requirements
– doctors can be reported under the categories of inappropriate conduct & impairment, with a notification leading to suspension or restrictions placed upon their practice & information being placed on the AHPRA website
– reports in media about recent deaths of four young doctors (3 psychiatric registrars & 1 medical intern, all working in public hospitals) has highlighted these fears & how they potentially impact upon a doctor’s likelihood to seek as early as possible treatment for mental health related issues
– a review of mandatory reporting laws has recently been completed, but is not yet public; however the review is expected to be tabled at the April meeting of the Council Of Australian Governments (many in the medical profession are reported to be hoping that the laws revert to the West Australian model (& this has been further supported by 2 medical insurers)
– working environment issues also cited, as was extra duties


We thought you may be interested in having a look at this growing online community @ – particularly if interested in Australian social & cultural history dating back to WW1 (as shown in Australia’s fundraising badges, buttons & pins, such as Anzac Day, Legacy Appeals etc.,) – for information our well-researched 2015 Guide to Australia’s Fundraising Buttons, Badges & Pins – Anzac Day is now available for immediate reading as a downloadable eBook using Paypal from & our 2014 Guide to Australia’s World War One Badges is also available, amongst many others.

How do you know if you need therapy?

With the exception of the UK references, this is a timely article – if in Canberra, I can be contacted on 0467 087 300 & I practice CBT & mindfulness in particular – I appreciate it is a big step, but if the following applies to you, perhaps it is worth considering
– a relationship ending
– loss of someone close to you
– perhaps you’ve always felt at odds with the world
– do you feel you are running into the same problems time & again
– you are thinking about past traumas more often of late
– you feel your home & work life is suffering
– you are no longer enjoying the things that once gave you pleasure
– do you find yourself, eating or drinking more than usual, or are you taking drugs to cope?




– friends can have conflicts too
– children need to have relationship repair skills
– conflict is a normal occurrence in life
– children who have the skills to manage conflict are
– happier
– have stronger relationships &
– learn better at school
– many parents let children sort it out themselves – hence why the loudest often works
– other parents jump in & “fix”
– suggests trying this when child disagrees with friends /siblings
1. Ask all sides for their side of the story
2. Have children state their own needs & wants by asking them what thy want
3. Help children listen & understand the needs & wants of the other
4. Help children think of different ways to solve the problem – assist & encourage the children to develop solutions
5. Help develop win-win solutions
6. Put solution into action & review



– Courageous love is expressive

– consider using:
– touch (physical) races, wrestles, hugs
– tell them in words (praise, affection)
– time focused on them & them alone
– gifts – a gift or token of your love
– service – like helping him or her with his/her chores

Ask your child to name three things that make him/her feel loved the most
– journal it
– make a point of doing it /showing it each day


Protect yourself from anger: Learn to boost confidence and composure

Protect yourself from anger: Learned to boost confidence and composure

– grievous are the consequences of anger as much as the causes of it
– concept of “ego anger” with irrational demands, recurrent & lingering features
– consequences can include:
– physical violence
– relationship loss
– when expressing anger, people tune into the emotion rather than the substance
– long-term health risks
– concept of “anger traps”
– confident composure:
– recognise you can only directly command yourself
– can influence controllable events only
– you have psychological resources to defuse conflicts & finesse those conflicts (I.e. responding flexibly & effectively)

Blame-Anger Factor
– holding onto anger is like holding onto something ready to throw it at another person
– “road of life” analogy – rarely smooth – full of challenges, frustrations, stress, blame
– it is normal to blame those you believe caused you pain
– condemning & punishing is like holding onto something
– confidence to take charge of yourself & adversity (despite the anxiety caused)
– you have options – to stress yourself or
– to problem-solve & exude confident composure
– begin by showing empathy to others important to you & thereby building relationships
– control your own reactions
– deep-breathing;
– buy time to calm down
– examine anger assumptions – why you believe it is ok to get angry
– change from “ego anger” to “enlightened” – why play the game of “anger”?
– accept reality – the situation is as it is
– make Your anger/impatience/frustration the target of change
– defuse & let go of the anger

The Anger-Anxiety-Procrastinaation Connection
– confrontation anxiety
– or is it more realistic to be assertive, noting it is difficult but more helpful & effective than bottling it all up
– procrastination is used to avoid confrontation
– put off procrastination by
1. Accepting there is a problem which needs to be addressed/changed
2. Break steps down into plunks – smaller, planned chunks
3. Develop a positive, can do form of reasoning
4. Accept her emotions without ignoring/distracting herself
5. Change her behaviour & act as though she can do it without argument or anger

Aristotle – Anyone can become angry. That is easy. To be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, & in the right way… That is not easy.

– ego anger is triggered by irrational demands & expectations & it may seem automatic (as if caused by something)
– however, you do have a choice to think, feel & act differently.
– believe you can respond reflectively & effectively, & then do so
– practice makes progress, & when mistakes are made, practice repair


How highly successful people deal with depression

How highly successful people deal with depression

Summary of article:
– develop a goal with therapy
– so as to steadily achieve little wins which, together, eventually amount to change
– be willing to examine the arc of your life – that is your early experiences – to think deeply about your past
– stop self-sabotaging
– think about themselves & their life in new ways
– recognise that past traumas can come into their lives, & overwhelm them, leading them back to a child-like place (& way if thinking, feeling & behaving)
– “flooding” of old traumas – knowing ow to recognise them & pull yourself out of the situation
– identify triggers for depression as soon as they start
– are prepared to invest in therapy (e.g. cited in article – person has therapy 4 hrs/week)
– person states one session per week did not work for him (three for himself & one with his partner)
– identify patterns & implications of arguments with loved ones
– working out treatment – therapy, medication or combination pharmacotherapy
– also with exercise, pastimes/hobbies, journaling, faith/spirituality
– they recognise that depression “just happens” & is not a “personality flaw/weakness”
– it is a true disorder, not a shortcoming
– typically has multi-factorial cause
– they recognise recovery from depression takes time & a lot of work
– are not prepared to be stigmatised because of their illness
– are mindful of signs


Do You Discover Your Passion, or Cultivate It?

Source: Association for Psychological Science – full article available here @


  • The concept of searching for your calling could be likened to finding a single diamond on a beach. But could a garden prove a more fitting metaphor?
  • Psychological scientists Paul O’Keefe at Yale, along with Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton of Stanford University, examined the effects of mindsets on how people pursue interests that could shape their career choices and satisfaction, not to mention their personal activities. The research is forthcoming in Psychological Science.
  • The study builds on Dweck’s pioneering research into growth mindsets in education. Students with a growth mindset – the belief that skills and smarts can change over time – have shown advantages in motivation and achievement. They see mistakes as opportunities for learning. Fixed mindsets, on the other hand, are associated with low motivation and a tendency to view mistakes as pure failures.
  • The popular ‘discover-your-passion’ mantra that seeps through career advice columns, self-help books, and university commencement speeches may lead to a “fixed theory” about interests – a belief that their interests are inflexible and lasting. If they already have a serious passion or goal, this notion could discourage them from pursuing new interests and lead them to eschew jobs and pastimes that don’t arouse their current pursuits. On the other hand, people with a “growth theory” may explore different interests and fight through challenges and setbacks, helping them to learn to love what they do.
  • Research cited in the article included Questions such as: “Once someone has discovered a passion, what happens to their motivation as they pursue that passion? Will they have limitless motivation? Will they stop procrastinating?”
    • Respondents who believed in fixed interests were more likely to say that passions provide limitless motivation and minimal obstacles
    • compared to those with a growth mindset who believed that interests grow and change over time.
    • O’Keefe and colleagues’ final experiment replayed the challenges of pursuing an interest on a small scale. Participants in this study first read one of two articles: one claiming that interests are mostly fixed or the other claiming interests are flexible and often cultivated. The participants then viewed a video presenting physicist Stephen Hawking’s theories about black holes in an accessible, interesting way. The participants who then rated their interest in black holes highly were asked to read a denser, less accessible article on the same subject. The fixed-theory participants were more likely to downgrade their interest levels in black holes after reading the difficult article compared to growth-theory participants. The gap was highest among those who found the article hard to understand.
  • It is yet to be seen whether changing these mindsets leads to permanent, long-term effects. If future research supports their benefits, though, commencement speakers may soon need to shop around for another phrase to replace ‘discover your passion.’


O’Keefe, P. A., Dweck, C. S., Walton, G. M., (2018). Implicit theories of interest: Finding your passion or developing it? Psychological Science.

Dweck, C (2015). Carol Dweck revisits the ‘growth mindset’. Education Week, 35(5) 20-24.

Lost your mojo?


  • detrimental for the mood is social isolation and disconnection from the outside world
  • limited exposure to sunshine can also impact mood
  • other symptoms – ranging from mild to extremely severe – include lack of energy/motivation, loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities, change in sleep pattern, loss or gain in appetite/weight, feelings of worthlessness/sadness
  • these symptoms of mood and lack of motivation impact daily life and relationships
  • psychological therapy and exercise work well for many people – particularly with mild to moderate symptoms
  • Good self-care includes:
    • maintain/developing a good sleep routine
    • making exercise part of your daily routine
      • this produces “feel good” hormones
      • promotes better sleep
    • expressing gratitude
      • write down 2 or 3 things you are grateful for every day
      • research shows this increases hope, optimism and ultimately energy
    • doing something you enjoy every day
    • exposing yourself to the sun – for approx 20 minutes with sunglasses or sunscreen
      • this produces vitamin D which is vital to a person’s physical and psychological wellbeing
      • exposure to UV light through the eyes raises the level of serotonin in the human body – this boosts mood, regulates appetite, and triggers melatonin production – a powerful antioxidant which boosts mood, benefits sleep as well as adrenal health and immunity
    • maintain/develop connections with family, friends and community groups
    • relaxing

Source: Poerio, L, 2018 Vetaffairs, Winter 2018

Well-adjusted children article


1. Relationship

  • a good relationship – based on respect, empathy, compassion – is very important
    • connection means they are more likely to listen and cooperate
  • model good skills too (such as relating to others, problem-solving)
  • be mindful of your own prejudices/potential “blind spots” with respect to your self, others and the world more broadly
  • attachment theory and neurobiology suggests such a healthy relationship between parent and child is essential for the wiring of the developing neonate /child /adolescent’s developing brain.

2. Your lens or frame of reference/perspective

  • remember to see the positives and the negatives (a rule of thumb from the Gottman Institute in Seattle, USA is a ratio of 5 to 1 – remember too – honey works better than vinegar
  • thoughts influence how you feel and ultimately how you express those thoughts influences how your child feels
  • see misbehaviour as a cue – ask yourself – what is the function of the behaviour – what is the misbehaviour trying to communicate to me?
  • when interacting with your child – watch for tone and language – if unduly negative, the language may be adopted as their own and may become what psychologists call a core belief
    • that is – the way you see them, may become the way they in turn see themselves

3. Your relationship with your significant other

  • remember – children watch and learn from their environment too
  • the relationship the children see between parents/carers sets a standard for your children too
  • bottom line: “The foundation of a happy family is a strong, loving relationship between the two of you. The single, most important thing that you can do for your children is to do everything in your power to have the best possible relationship with your spouse.”

4. The atmosphere of your home

  • If you have loving and connected relationships, you likely have a warm atmosphere in your home. If there is discord between you and your spouse, or you and your child, or your child and your other child, then the overall atmosphere will suffer.
  • home should be a safe, warm, loving haven for your children

5. How you relate to others

  • How do you treat the bank teller, the store clerk, the telemarketer? What about your parents and your in-laws? They are watching your example.
  • Albert Einstein once said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”

6. Community

  • Seeing a bigger picture, how their acts can influence many lives, will give them a sense of responsibility and reinforce good values.

7. School

  • Peers have a big influence on children, but if our relationship is where it should be, our influence will still be stronger

8. Self-Care

  • respecting yourself teaches your child self-respect

9. Media. Television. Video games. Social media.

just be aware of what your kids are getting from what they’re watching.

10. Basic needs

  • Adequate nutrition, sleep, and exercise

Source: Eanes, R. (2018) – full article here at

The Science Behind 5 Happiness Cliches

The Science Behind 5 Happiness Cliches

– when you change the way you look at something, that thing changes
1) Don’t worry, be happy – instead say: it’s ok to feel life’s ups & downs
– It is unrealistic to expect to be happy all the time
– just because you have struggles in everyday life does not mean that something has gone seriously wrong in your life – it is part of a normal daily rhythm
– it is normal to feel sad after a break-up; it is normal to feel uncertain during a big transition in life; it is to be expected that you will feel incompetent, especially when you are learning something new; it is normal to feel anxiety when we do not know how to do something; it is ok to occasionally feel bored
– research: activities that frontload or take up a lot of time, effort, are intense & are inconvenient – but which allow us to do things later that allow us to enter a flow state
– in other words, think of negative emotion as an investment
2) The purpose of life is a life of purpose
– what this should say is: find your purpose to fight stress & take care of yourself
– Studies show that having a purpose increases the quality and quantity of life
– Purpose is feeling directed and motivated by goals and values
– It is theorised that having a purpose prompts us to take better care of ourselves
– It is also thought purpose shields us from the weathering effects of stress
– purpose allows us to manage more effectively the daily hassles of life
3) Discipline or self-control (resisting temptation in the moment) is the bridge between goals and accomplishment
– Instead say: organise your life so you do not have to assert discipline
– there is disagreement about the nature of self-control:
– Some say self control is a finite resource to be conserved
– While other people say it is more like a muscle strengthening with use
– while studies are beginning to show that merely experiencing temptation (not even exerting self-control) leaves people feeling depleted & that therefore organising the environment (so such temptation is not experienced) is vitally important – do this by using what is termed “effortless self-control”
– organise work & life to minimise temptation
– put phone in drawer/separate room when studying / disconnect games
– diet – go somewhere where the whole menu is healthy food
– this is because it is thought it is far easier to avoid temptation altogether than resist it
4) do one thing every day that scares you
– or reframe: avoid “avoidance”
– staying in our comfort zone resolutely entrenches a person in a place where they learn to be anxious (that the world is dangerous & unfriendly) & they begin to believe they are less able to learn than they truly are
5) Live Everyday as if it were your last
– instead: Imagine that time is scarce (as it truly is)

Source: Savvy Psychologist Podcast: 18 May 2018

Optimism & Hope with Martin Seligman [part 2 – the Hope circuit]

Optimism & Hope with Martin Seligman [part 2 – the Hope circuit]

– resilience – optimism instead of pessimism (So as to prevent depression)
– optimism – bad events are temporary
– pessimism – catastrophic thinking / global labelling
– pessimistic people first need to learn to recognise what are the catastrophic things they say to themselves so that they can argue against it
– pessimistic kids – Seligman talks about an experiment)
-if you are an 11 year old girl & a group of children walk past you in the cafeteria & ignore you
– the pessimistic child will think: I am a reject – I am unloveable (catastrophic thinking)
For resilience:
– the first thing you are taught is to recognise the catastrophic things you are saying to yourself
– Then kids are taught to argue against it – the catastrophic thinking
– “treat this voice as if it were a rival”
– fight their pessimism by arguing realistically against it
– research shows this halves the rate of depression by the time the child negotiates puberty etc.,
– negative things happen in the past
– teach resilience training in the presence
– he notes resilience is “the normal” for most people when they experience tragedy – typically a stress reaction for 3 months & then they bounce back
– then there is a group of people who go through post-traumatic growth
– resilience skills are important in all walks of life
– optimism & hope are also risk factors with respect to longevity
– a study of cardiovascular death likened chronic pessimism (the bottom quartile of surveyed people in the 10’year study he cites) as being the equivalent of smoking 2.5 packets of cigarettes per day) – pessimism is considered a chronic risk factor
– the premiss is optimism – that we can be cognitive & positive creatures
– he says psychology has hit a dead-end with little advance made over the last 30 years
– that the best we can do is alleviate 60% of suffering in the patient population
– Seligman has attempted to define happiness & the components of well-being
PERMA stands for:
P – positive emotions: happiness, contentment, joy, rapture
E – Engagement: aka flow – or when time “stops” for you
R – Relationships: we are “hive”/social creatures
M – Meaning: or something larger than we are – it provides meaning & purpose because it is bigger than the self – he says that if you are depressed, one of the first things to do is to go out and help others
A – Achievement: competence/accomplishment
– in PERMA, Seligman notes that one dimension on its own does not define happiness, but that happiness & well-being is in fact a multi-dimensional construct
– he believes PERMA principles are teachable
– talk about what people are good at
– teach hope
– he believes people naturally think about the future – in fact, he believes that is about 50% of the time – & the area of the brain that this occurs in? – he calls it the default circuit – the hope circuit
– he says human perception is often about what is supposed to happen next (rather than what actually happens)
– from a survival perspective, human beings inherited a “Catastrophising brain”
– he also discusses what he terms a “political, religious & moral void”
– Christianity & the crucifix is about suffering

Source: ABC RN AITM Podcast | 01 July 2018

No doze, no joke: How too little sleep can lead to big problems

Full article here @


  • Sleep deprivation – caused by anything from late nights at work to a night out with friends or from pacing the floor with a young baby – can lead to exhaustion and irritability.
  • But in some people, disrupted sleep can be linked to more serious problems, including bipolar disorder and depression.
  • A large British study, recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry, found a strong connection between altered circadian rhythm (the body’s 24-hour sleep-wake cycle), wellbeing and mood disorders.
  • Australasian Sleep Association spokeswoman Dr Siobhan Banks said circadian rhythm was important.
    • “We have internal clocks that help regulate our different physiological and psychological functions,” she said.
    • “Morning light signals the beginning of a cycle, with eating and exercise being other timekeepers. These work together to tell our body what time of day it is and what we should be doing at those times.”
    • Circadian rhythm and mood have an important “bio-directional relationship”. That means poor sleep has a negative effect on mood, and mood disorders can disrupt sleep.
  • To better understand this relationship, the British researchers used accelerometers to record the rest and activity of more than 91,000 people for a week.
    • They produced a measure for each person called a “relative amplitude”. A lower relative amplitude indicated a disrupted circadian rhythm.
    • Researchers found participants with lower relative amplitudes were most likely to report a history of bipolar disorder or major depression.
    • They also had unstable moods, lower levels of happiness, higher scores on neuroticism, greater perceived loneliness, lower satisfaction with health and slower reaction times.
  • Australians not getting enough sleep
    • Dr Danny Eckert, a sleep physician and spokesperson for Neuroscience Research Australia, said 40 per cent of Australians were getting too little sleep. This had a negative impact on performance and mood.
      • “I think we’ve all experienced how even one night of disrupted or inadequate sleep leads to poor decision-making the next day,” he said.
      • “An area of your brain called the amygdala is 60 per cent more reactive after one night of sleep deprivation, so you’re more likely to make rash decisions.”
      • Dr Eckert said sleep was a key pillar of health, along with diet and exercise.
      • “Every single organ, every single cell in the body is disrupted by [poor sleep],” he said.
      • “If you don’t sleep enough, you’re more likely to be obese, you’re more likely to die.
      • The opposite is also true – when you prioritise sleep, it’s a great way to improve performance, alertness, productivity and live a longer, happier, healthier life.”
  • Tips for better sleep
    • Dr Eckert recommends a regular bedtime routine and avoiding bright light at least two hours before sleep.
    • This is especially important when it comes to handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets, which suppress production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
    • Experts also recommend sleeping in a dark, quiet room, and keeping the bedroom only for sleep.
    • If you have a mood disorder and these tips aren’t helping, Dr Eckert recommends seeing your doctor for advice.
    • Dr Banks advises getting outside early in the morning, when our bodies are “primed to take light”. A short walk or just sitting in the sun – preferably without sunglasses – will help trigger a clear time signal.
    • Avoid exercise in the evenings, and, if you have a lot of trouble getting to sleep, steer clear of daytime naps.
  • At-risk groups
    • Some people have a greater risk of sleep disorders than others.
    • This includes shift workers, new parents, students and those with obstructive sleep apnoea, Dr Eckert said.
    • These groups might need extra help to achieve the seven to nine hours a night that is generally recommended for most adults.
    • One effective way to find out exactly how much you need is to take a week’s holiday, Dr Eckert said.
    • “Assuming you’re not drinking alcohol – which will also disrupt your sleep – by the end of the week you should have a pretty good sense of how many hours you actually need to feel alert and happy the next day.”

How and where to find mental health support when you need it


  • There’s no doubt mental health is a growing concern in Australia.
  • Every year, one in five Australians will have a mental illness issue – and almost one in two of us will be affected at some stage in our lives.
  • Mental health problems can affect quality of life, work and finances, relationships and physical health.
  • Navigating the health system for yourself or helping a loved one can be confusing or overwhelming. Here are the common barriers to getting help, with tips on how to overcome them:
    • Not knowing where to go
      • “Your GP is the best starting point,” beyondblue lead clinical adviser Dr Grant Blashki said.
      • “GPs usually know the local mental health services and can refer you to other appropriate health professionals best suited to your mental health condition.”
    • What you should do
      • Make a long appointment with your GP. This should allow enough time to write a mental health plan if needed;
      • Access the government’s Head to Health site. It offers information on mental health conditions, how to support yourself or someone else
      • Try beyondblue’s support service, either by calling the 24-hour line 1300 224 636 or here;
      • Look up the mental health line for your state here.
    • The cost of counselling
      • Your GP can create a mental health plan for you, if required. But this does not mean that counselling is free.
      • “A mental health plan entitles people to access between six and 10 Medicare-subsidised consultations with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist,” Dr Blashki said.
      • “The overall fee is determined by the practitioner and there is often a gap fee.”
    • What you should do
      • Seek support from family and friends: While you are finding a counsellor, having trusted people to talk to can make you feel less alone and remind you that you are loved, valued and worthwhile;
      • HeadSpace: Anyone aged 12-25 can attend a HeadSpace centre for free psychological treatment;
      • Mental health websites: “If you are waiting for support but not in crisis, or trying to find counselling you can afford, it is good to read about mental health issues and treatments,” Dr Blashki said. Reliable information can be found at beyondblue and Sane.

If you need urgent support:

  • Go to your nearest hospital
  • Call Lifeline: 131 114
  • Call the Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467

Full article here @