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The Problem Of Positive Thinking

Since the publication of Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 book called The Power of Positive Thinking, the world has been bombarded with a plethora of self-help books guaranteed to show us the way to happiness. But is there a down-side to these suggestions?

If we do as instructed, by a multitude of sources, to push away the negative, or bad thoughts and focus only on the positive, or good thoughts, how do we prepare for the bad times of reality?

Come with me, if you will, on a journey through the cluttered half-baked theories of my mind, but watch your step, there’s no liability insurance in here. If you trip into the corpus callosum, you’re on your own.

Part one of the half-baked journey begins with the extreme outcome of pure positive thinking. If I am truly thinking positively, then nothing at all could possibly go wrong, I have nothing to worry about, I am perfect just the way I am, and the world exists just so that I might gain pleasure from it.

If nothing could go wrong, why should I plan for a rainy day? My job will last forever, the roof will never leak, and my kids will remain perfectly healthy. There is only sunshine in my world.

If there is nothing to worry about, then I can count my life savings while walking down a dark alley without fear, my car will last forever- that banging under the hood means nothing and adds an interesting beat to the music playing on the radio, and I will never grow old. Throw away the botox; there are no wrinkles here.

If I am perfect just the way I am, why should I exercise to take off that extra ten pounds, why should I try to improve my mind with literature, the theater, or a higher degree. Why should I get off the couch?

If I buy into this extreme sport of pure positive thinking, why would I work like a dog to get ahead? Wouldn’t I be perfect enough for everything to be given to me?

Now for part two of the half-baked journey; are you still with me? We are getting really deep in the frontal lobes now.

If I remain in a positive thinking mode until I gain a serene, carefree state, does that mean my brain is unstimulated? And in turn, does that mean that the firing of neurons has diminished so much that if danger were to occur, I would not be able to act quickly enough for self-preservation? Would I react at all if I were a true positive thinker? What could happen if I stayed on the couch?

Let’s go back to the unstimulated idea. If I continue to not stimulate my brain, will my brain begin to deteriorate? After all, the old adage “Use it or Lose it” has been around longer than “Think Positively”. Let’s throw in another adage: Necessity is the Mother of Invention. That being said, if we have no necessity because we are positively thinking about everything and therefore need nothing new, why would we trouble ourselves to invent new things?

If I remain unstimulated for an extended period of time, what will happen to my mood? If there are no highs or lows, no release of adrenaline to handle excitement or danger, no need for the release of serotonin or dopamine to stimulate my brain, will these receptors be decommissioned as no longer needed? Will my mood sink into depression?

Now for the flip side of this saga.

What if I experienced continual negative thoughts? Would my life mirror the same lack of moving forward I found while hanging out on the couch with positive thinking? I may have more supplies stored in the basement with negative thinking and the door would be locked, but would my life be any more interesting? Would it be just as flat, but in a negative way?

If danger startled me off of the couch, would I be too paralyzed by negativity to react in time? If I think nothing good will ever happen, have I made this come true simply by closing the door to the possibility?

This leaves us with the good old fence straddlers.

Ordinarily, sitting on the fence is thought of as a bad thing. We are urged to choose a side, be decisive and stick with our convictions. What if I had a mixture of positive and negative thinking tempered with a good dose of reality thinking? Would my life attain a better balance necessary to survival? Would I have happy little neurons firing quickly and efficiently because they were getting a healthy dose of exercise and rest? If I use reality thinking with a mixture of both positive and negative thinking, will I be better prepared to weather hard times?

If I have a huge project due at work, would I be more effective if I used a dose of negative thinking that I don’t have enough time to complete this project, mixed in a little anxiety that if I don’t finish then my job may be finished, added some positive thinking that all I can do is my best, and stirred it around with reality thinking that I’ve proven myself by meeting hard deadlines in the past and have the ability to do so again. My project will most likely be completed on time because I have made this mixture of positive, negative, anxiety and reality work for me instead of against me. Too much positive thinking and I won’t push myself hard enough to make the deadline. Too much negative and I will give up before really trying.

The fence straddlers can enjoy a healthy mixture of both positive and negative thoughts, knowing each has its own value if kept in balance. And the view from the fence is not bad either.

Thank you for coming along on this trip through the half-baked theory region of my mind.

Now that I’ve shared some of my thoughts, feel free to share some of your own.

*This blog post was originally published at eDocAmerica*

Should Movies With Smoking In Them Receive An R-Rating?

As many of you may know, the famous tobacco control scientist and advocate, Professor Stan Glantz, has over the past few years been focusing on the issue of depictions of smoking in movies. Part of the concern stems from good evidence that young people are highly influenced by movies due to their cultural value and glamorous nature.

The other part stems from a history of use of “product placement” in movies. This refers to the movie producers agreeing to include a specific product in their movie in return for some incentive (typically money). A famous example of this is a letter from Sylvester Stallone agreeing to smoke particular brands of cigarettes in his movies for $500,000. So when one combines the financial power of the tobacco industry with product placement we end up with a hell of a lot more gratuitous smoking in movies than is necessary.

Of course the movie companies and many movie enthusiasts argue about the need for art to imitate life etc., etc. However numerous examples demonstrate that to be a lot of nonsense. Professor Glantz points to depictions of Marlboro cigarettes being dragged around or used by aliens in movies like Men In Black. Is it really true that those aliens prefer Marlboros and so showing the brand was necessary for the movie to be accurate? Mmm….I doubt it.

My favorite example comes from the film “A Beautiful Mind”. The movie stars Russell Crowe in the lead role portraying the (still living and working) Princeton University professor, John Nash. In real life, John Nash suffered from schizophrenia but did not smoke. In the movie he suffered from schizophrenia, but smoked. I’m not sure why the producers changed this aspect of reality or what it added to the movie.

But these are details. Professor Glantz’ main point is that movies made to be viewed by kids do not need to include smoking, and therefore should be given an R rating if they do, just as they are if they depict illicit drug use. Note that an R doesn’t stop people under 17 from seeing the movie in a movie theater. It just means they need to be accompanied by an adult. It also doesn’t ban smoking from movies, it just means that movies with smoking in them will receive an R rating, just as sex, drugs, cursing and certain types of violence will get a movie an R rating. Of course the movie industry is very clear that a large part of its audience is kids and particularly teens. The net effect of the rating changes professor Glantz is recommending would be that gratuitous smoking will be taken out of many movies and particularly those aimed at kids.

I must admit that I didn’t initially pay much attention to this proposal, and my natural inclination was to doubt whether it really was worth the effort. But while I was at the UK National Smoking Cessation Conference in London last week I heard Professor Glantz talk about this idea and I came around to thinking its maybe not as extreme as I first thought. In fact he convinced me that it’s a reasonably sensible idea that would likely result in thousands fewer teens taking up smoking. Sometime soon the full audio recording of Professor Glantz’ presentation will be posted on the conference website along with his slides. I’ll post the link when its available, but for now those interested in this subject may want to check out the following website:
http://smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu/

This post, Should Movies With Smoking In Them Receive An R-Rating?, was originally published on Healthine.com by Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D..

Teen Dating Does Not Mean They’re Having Sex

Just a friendly reminder to parents that dating does not equal sex. I cannot tell you how many teens have shared with me that the first lecture they got from their parents when they started dating was about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and unwanted pregnancy. Their reactions were “what?”

When young teens start dating it is because they have found themselves twitterpated (which is apparently not a real word), and attracted to someone. Chances are good it is more of an emotional attraction than a sexual one, and one that will wax and wane, usually end with tears, but not kill them.

It is easy to understand why parents panic and worry about sexuality and the risks associated with that sexuality – we live in an extremely over-sexualized culture that can make us believe that everyone is having sex – which is not true. Please remember that only half of teens start being sexual before they are 18, but most fall in love at least once before leaving high school.

Dating is about learning how to be in a relationship, and you will be doing your children a great service if you talk with them about relationships, not sex. It is a good idea to make the difference really clear for them, and make your expectations very clear, too! If you expect your teen to not become sexual, tell them that, and why. Ask them to tell you what there limits and expectations about relationships and sex are. Here are some topic suggestions:

  • What do they think dating includes?
  • What does sexual pressure look and feel like?
  • How would your child resist sexual pressure?
  • How long do they think people should date before the topic of sex even comes up?
  • How will they know if someone is the “one?”
  • What would have to happen before they did think about sexual behavior?

If the possibility exists that they will be sexual, then, you can have the conversation about sex – but not if they tell you they will not be swayed and are not interested – you have to trust them.

Many teens are afraid of dating or choose not to date because a partner may expect sex, so they find a friend or pseudo partner to attend events with and protect them from having to resist sexual pressure – which is a great strategy, but keeps them from trying on relationships.

Oh the conversations that we might have … keep talking and make sure they know you are open to talking – even about things that make you squirm.

This post, Teen Dating Does Not Mean They’re Having Sex, was originally published on Healthine.com by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

When Your Teen Starts Dating

After you get over the urge to run and hide, lock your teen in the bathroom, shave his or her head, and save yourself, take a deep breath and think about what is important here. You are likely panicked because you know that sooner or later someone will break your teens heart – and there is nothing you can do about it, or is there?

Talk to your teen and share what you are feeling as well as what you know. Being new to the world of love/lust/hormones, there are some really great conversations to be had now about balance, friendship, and healthy relationships! First, your teen may be overwhelmed with how wonderful it feels to be in love and you can help remind your teen about balance, and the importance of not losing themselves for love. Your teen needs to stay “true to self” instead of becoming an appendage to the new love. Encourage your teen to stay connected to friends, school, outside activities, family, and sports, while making room for the new love.

You might mention that if that becomes an issue, you can help by setting limits on the amount of hanging out at home, phone, text, and computer time, to help her learn to balance life and love/lust/hormones. This is not a threat – just a supportive way to help your teen transition in the world of love!

Together you can set the expectations that honor this new part of life, make your teen feel listened to and involved with the new contract – the new couple spends time with the family, grades stay up, activities continue, chores, whatever else her life includes must all continue – because your teen has to be a “person” first before a girlfriend or boyfriend. The We’re Talking web site has a great section called the abcs of healthy relationships, which will provide many reminders about knowing when a relationship is not healthy.

Along those same lines, it is important to talk about the importance of friendship – and how you want the first few months together to be spent with family – because early in relationships the goal is to learn to trust each other, find things that you have in common, and become parts of each others lives. Friendship is stronger in the long run than hormones – and if either member of the couple is motivated by anything else other than love – s/he will not make it through the “getting to know all about you” phase.

P.S. Remember that the greater the age difference, and the more time alone they share, the more likely teens will take new love to sexual realms, so be aware and good luck!

This post, When Your Teen Starts Dating, was originally published on Healthine.com by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

What Features Do Teens Need On Cell Phones?

Cell phones are their feature are an ever growing topic in today’s families. It used to be that the hot button issue was whether to get the phone. Now, we have to deal with all the features: texting, Internet, camera…to name the tip of the iceberg!

Clearly we’re becoming a more mobile society with our cell phones taking over features previously reserved for our computers. A recent Nielsen Wire report confirms this observation showing that in Q1 of 2009 21% of cell phone owners used their phones to search the Internet, up from 16% in Q4 of 2008.

At the moment, digital plans are pricey so it’s easy to lock our kids out of their cell phone Internet access. However, not too long ago we said the same exact thing about texting and now we have affordable unlimited texting plans.

Given the impulsivity of tweens and teens and how difficult it is for us to help kids with appropriate Internet use on computers, do we want to open the door to having them have access to the Internet on cell phones? Once data plans become more affordable, should we let them have cell phone internet access?

Perhaps it would be easier to answer if asked slightly differently. How are our teens and tweens doing with the digital cell phone freedom they have right now? Given the rise of extreme texting and sexting, I’d say not so great. Before we open the door to new issues and digital freedoms they are not ready for, we have to help them more with the freedoms they already have – and are clearly struggling with. Plus, as parents, we are still sorting out the issues with the digital uses of technology our kids are currently using. Let’s sort those out first before we give the green light to other mobile freedoms that will certainly be more complex and harder to control.

If all goes well, data plans will remain unaffordable for a while longer so we won’t have to cross another digital bridge none of us are ready for.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

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