Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Do Peers Make Teens Stupid?

posted by Linda Mintle

Why do teens do things with their friends that they would never do by themselves?

A part of the answer might have to do with the developing brain of a teen. Specifically, adolescents are wired in ways that lend to risk taking when in the presence of their friends.

Researchers at Temple University tested the brains of adults and teens by attaching them to brain scan machines while simulating a driving game. What they found was that when teens were not observed by friends, they drove basically the same as the adults in the study. However, when teens had friends observing them, something interesting happened. A part of the brain associated with reward lit up and the teens took more risks. They had more crashes and reckless driving behavior.

This study lends credence to the idea of teens doing stupid things together that they would not do alone. The psychologist who ran the experiment, Laurence Steinberg, a national expert on adolescent development, thinks this finding may be applied to other areas of teen life like bullying. Maybe, the peer approval and possible social advancement associated with bullying is enough to light up the reward centers in the brains of teens who bully. He suggests that the short-term pleasure of the moment with peers may override judgement. This also means that giving teens more information on bullying or any other negative behavior is not going to prevent much. In these cases, knowledge is not power. It takes maturation to make good decisions.

Instead, it would be better to limit opportunities for immature judgement that could harm others. For example, I didn’t allow my teens to drive with other teens in the car when they first started driving. I limited the opportunity, knowing that the risk taking increases when other teens are present. In the case of bullying, working on the peer group to approach bullying as a negative and not a peer enhancing activity would change the context. When teens come together to advance kindness and empathy, we may have an effective strategy. And those values are usually taught at home.

 

Source: Steinberg, L. (2007). Risk-taking in adolescence: New perspectives from brain and behavioral science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(2), pp. 55-59.

Guest Blog: Dr. Rita Hancock on Hope For Pain Sufferers

posted by Linda Mintle

Guest blogger Dr. Rita Hancock, Board-certified Pain Management, treats people holistically. Author of Radical Well-Being and The Eden Diet, you can find out more about her at her website, www.RitaHancock.com

 

As a pain management specialist, I see patients on a daily basis who have pain conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, disc problems, muscle spasms, jaw pain, migraine headaches, and others.

In order to figure out who needs what kind of treatment, I talk with my patients extensively, examine them thoroughly, and order all the necessary tests. However, sometimes, no obvious diagnosis emerges and I’m left scratching my head about what’s causing the patient’s pain.

Especially in light of the high rates of addiction and prescription narcotic abuse, I try very, very hard to discern who among my patients needs narcotic pain medicines and who needs emotional or even spiritual support, primarily.

One of the main things I consider is how the patient’s emotional state—how much stress, anxiety, and/or depression that person is experiencing—can affect his or her perception of pain. Maybe the tests came back negative because the patient has only a little muscle spasm, and it just feels like excruciating pain to the patient because of other things that are going on at home or at work.

Think about it! There’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is the physical aspect. It’s when your nerve endings fire and tell your brain, “Hot stove! Quick—Pull your finger away!” In contrast, suffering is your emotional reaction to that pain. “AAAAAaaaaarrrrrrgghhhhh!!!!!!” [piercing, exaggerated, melodramatic screaming and crying….]. “My life is ruined now that my finger is burned! Where’s that bottle of pills?”

If you’re an anxious or depressed person who was abused, neglected, or abandoned as a child, you may have fewer coping skills as an adult to deal with stress. As a result, you might experience physical pain more profoundly [or dramatically] than the next person, and you might even more inclined than average to reach for those pills.

In addition, understand that physical pain can serve as a distraction from your emotional issues. It feels less personal to fixate on, “My back hurts” instead of, “My life feels completely out of control and I’m scared!” Your brain can play tricks on you—making you fixate on pain as being a bigger problem than it is. That way, you don’t have to deal with more emotionally threatening thoughts.

In case I described you, don’t worry. There’s a lot of hope for you to feel better.  Through a combined approach that includes not only the proper medicine but also counseling and prayer (as well as extending forgiveness to those who hurt you in the past), you can achieve greater control and freedom from emotionally-induced pain.

That way, you can snuff out your pain out at its emotional root cause—without having to rely on addictive narcotics or expensive, painful, time-consuming medical tests prescribed by pain management doctors like me.

Part 4: Christianity and Buddhism: A Call to the Christian Church

posted by Linda Mintle

I hope you have enjoyed this series on Christian mindfulness. This is my last installment on the series

Part 1: The  Christian Practice of Mindfulness

Part 2: The attraction

Part 3: The difference in narratives

 

For many reasons, meditation as a regular Christian practice has been lost in American culture and needs to be re-cultivated. We have abandoned our spiritual disciplines, leaving us weak, ignorant, distracted and ineffective in our Christian walks. As a result, we display to the world a powerless form of Christianity full of stressed and distracted followers who do not access the power of the relationship with the Christ who indwells. Instead, we act on our own power which is ineffective in transforming lives and healing hurts.

In other words, we are the problem, not Christianity. Is it any wonder people turn to other religions for answers? When Christians don’t live out their Christianity, a void is left for others to fill.

Furthermore, we argue about meditation in Christian circles. Is it biblical? Yes (Joshua 1:8). Has it been misunderstood and misused in Christian circles? Yes. Is it essential in the lives of Christians? Yes. The Bible is clear on the need to mediate and explains how it is to be done. Let’s stop arguing and start doing it.

We don’t need a bell to awaken us to the frequency of God. His Spirit is already in us and His presence and power is ready to change lives and bring needed peace and contentment to those who seek truth. We don’t need a mantra to deliver our mind from illusions and focus our attention. The One who spoke the world into existence and breathed life to our physical bodies, lives in us. Our job is to awaken to this reality and not retreat from the spiritual battle, to boldly present the truth, live out the realities of that truth and offer a path of hope to a desperately hurting world. And wouldn’t it be powerful if we, and not just the Buddhists, were known for our love as Jesus so desired. Instead, we are known for what we oppose.

Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. With our eyes firmly fixed on Christ, we can agree with this quote from Isaac of Stella

He Himself is my contemplation. He is my delight. Him for His own sake I seek above me. From Him Himself I feed within me. He is the field in which I labor. He is my cause He is my effect. He is my beginning. He is my end, without end. He is for eternity. —Issac of Stella

 


[1] Reference?

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders

posted by Linda Mintle

NATIONAL EATING DISORDERS AWARENESS WEEK ends today. Be informed. Encourage someone who struggles to get help!

What causes eating disorders?

This simple question has a complex answer. Families are mystified as to what makes a 16 year-old jeopardize her health. Friends are disgusted by the vomiting sounds heard in college dorm room bathrooms. Husbands are baffled by their wives seeming inability to love themselves. Why do women and men abuse their bodies with food?

There is no one thing that predicts whether someone will submit to the bondage of these disorders. What we do know is that the causes are multiple, interactive and complex. No one factor stands alone. Keeping that in mind and knowing we don’t have definitive answers, here are some of the risk factors thought to lead to the predisposition and development of an eating disorder:

·History of a mood disorder (increased risk for bulimia) or family history of mood disorder

·Traumatic life events

·Genetics:  Eating disorders do tend to run in families. Usually females are most affected. This may suggest that some people are predisposed to these disorders, but it certainly doesn’t eliminate the role other factors play. Research is currently being conducted looking carefully at the role of genetics. Heritable factors may be involved in the development of an eating disorder. However causation is difficult to determine given other contributing factors.

·Family history of substance abuse may increase the risk for bulimia

·Odd family eating habits and strong concern about appearance and weight may translate to family members

·Dissatisfaction with body and desire to be thin

·Dieting appears to be an entrée to an eating disorder for women and exercise for men

·Normal development events such as the onset of puberty, leaving home, the beginning of a new relationship, particularly with the opposite sex.

·Repeated negative comments on appearance

·Emphasis on thinness among upper and middle class women and female adolescents

·Positive family history of eating disorders coupled with dieting

·Personality traits: For anorexia the risks include affective over control and intolerance, lack of self-direction and personal effectiveness, and difficulty adapting to developmental tasks. There is some evidence for the contribution of affective instability and poor impulse control in developing bulimia.

 

If you know someone who struggles with an eating disorder, tell him or her to get help. Treatment works and help is available

 


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