Doing Life Together

ID-100246870I can remember so many times when my kids would say to me, “I’m bored!” And they didn’t like my response, “That’s a good thing. Maybe you can listen to your thoughts or think creatively.”

Truth is, most of us don’t like to be bored. At least not in this wired age. Our typical boredom trainers are gone thanks to the cell phone. You don’t have to be bored waiting in line at the grocery store–pull out your phone. What about that hour of down time after dinner? Get on your IPAD! How about being a passenger  in the car and simply watching the scenery flash by? Nope, looking down at my phone!

Being wired 24/7 means we don’t have to be bored,… ever! And here’s a little shocker to support this idea.

Researchers were interested in studying how well people do when alone with their thoughts. You know, the archaic idea that you can actually sit with no phone, book or anything to distract you. Just you and your thoughts for 6-15 minutes.

In one of 11 experiments, the researchers gave the subjects the option to sit alone with their thoughts or shock themselves. Boredom versus pain.

Yep, you guessed it. 67% of the men and 25% of the women chose pain rather than sit alone and think! In terms of the gender difference, the researchers are guessing that men are more sensation focused than women, thus more easily bored. The researchers concluded that men especially, prefer doing to thinking. An unpleasant experience to a boring one won the day.

Hey, and if you are reading this, it might be because you don’t want to be bored!

Or maybe you have trouble controlling your thoughts. One idea is to direct your disengaged mind to pleasant thoughts and/or practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you stay present focused and can reduce stress. So try it. Put down your phone and meditate a moment. In my opinion, watching the sunset and appreciating the beauty of the moment beats the heck out of shocking myself to create pain!



Think drama! NO, think mindless drama. Now who comes to mind?

The Kardashians of course. If there is a way to keep their names in the news, they find it. And so it goes with the latest “controversy.”

Apparently, 18- year- old Kendall Jenner banned sister Kim Kardashian from attending her fashion shows. And yes, this made headlines.


Maybe because younger sister is taking the spotlight away from older sister. Kim is the one used to getting all the attention. Now that her sister has taken New York and Paris Fashion week by storm, little sis is making a few demands. First, she dropped her famous last name and simply goes by Kendall. This act of independence is supposed to make us think she is separating a little from her family. Actually it would be normal for Kendall to vie for a little independence at this age,  but this could prove difficult given the enmeshed family dynamics.

Maybe because a little sibling rivalry is normal. When younger children are born, the older children feel the attention move from them to the new child. At different ages, they want different things. Kendall is emerging as a young adult. Her focus is different than Kim’s who is a mom and a thirty something. Conflict is  normal as they negotiate their adult relationship. The important thing is not to compare siblings to each other. Each is unique and trying to find her place in life. And each needs a little personal space. However, personal space for reality TV stars is not easy to come by.

Maybe because we need mindless entertainment to take our minds off the real problems our country faces. Let’s face it, this family is a distractor from more important issues in our culture.

Maybe because we can relate to a little sibling drama. Let’s stick with this idea and look at what really happens in most families when it comes to siblings.

According to an article from Psychology Today, about a third of adult  siblings say their relationships are rivalrous or distant. So when it comes to siblings then, the majority of them stick together, differences included.

We know that siblings are impacted by their mother’s interactions with their other siblings. So mama Kris, plays a role! Her actions and inactions influence Kendall’s relationship, especially when it comes to getting along with her older sisters. In this family, it appears the siblings are competing more with their mom than each other. And we know that sisters who are close come from families in which much emphasis is placed on close relationships. The Kardashians have made careers out of this closeness. The expectation seems to be, we are family and will stick together despite our conflicts. Family is what made us famous.

Related to expectations, Judy Dunn, who studies siblings in the US and England, adds that if siblings have the desire to get along, even when they  have different goals and interests, rivalry becomes cooperation. In other words, if a sibling values the relationship and wants it to work, she can find ways to make it cooperative.

And sister-in-laws or brother-in-laws can create tension among sibling relationships. Hmm….Kanye could certainly be a factor here. Let’s just say he can be difficult.

Most clinicians will tell you, siblings, in general get along and conflict certainly arises. Sure there are personality differences, more attention giving to one child over another at times, but in the end, getting along is the norm. So I wouldn’t make too much out of this latest headline of Kendall banning Kim. After all, the media loves to stir up controversy and the Kardashians love to be in the middle of it! It’s how they stay celebrities!

ID-10047219I remember when my grandmother began to have memory loss in her early 80s. It was hard to watch because she knew she was losing it. Eventually, Alzheimer’s took its hold on her mind and she ended up in a nursing home not knowing who we were.

If you, like me, have a family member who suffers with Alzheimer’s, or know one of the 5.2. million people who have Alzheimer’s this year, you may be wondering where we are on prevention. The expectation is that the number of people with this disease will triple by the year 2050.

Right now, there is no cure or even a sound prevention program to ward off the symptoms. But we do have some promising lifestyle changes that may make a difference. Again, these behaviors are not a given for prevention. But here are a few areas being researched with promise. The Mayo Clinic is working on a long-term study designed to look at risks of getting the disease.

Some of the lifestyle changes people are making if they are risk include:

1) Playing a musical instrument. We aren’t sure why but this seems to delay the onset of cognitive and auditory decline. So if you play an instrument, keep playing. If not, consider learning one.

2) Eating and drinking: Drink coffee, eat berries and moderately consume alcohol. There is some evidence that these actions may protect against cognitive decline.

3) Other diet considerations include avoiding copper (liver, clams, oysters for example) and reducing saturated fat in your diet while increasing learn protein.

4) Exercise just seems to help everything including cognitive abilities.

The idea here is that lifestyle modifications may have an impact on our cognitive aging. Hey, it’s worth a try as these changes are good for us anyway!

distress womanWhen academy award winning actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones announced that she suffered from Bipolar II Disorder and checked into a mental health facility for a brief stay in 2011, it made celebrity news.

People wondered. What is Bipolar Disorder and how does that differ from depression?

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 5.7 million people struggle with Bipolar Disorder, a disorder characterized by extreme shifts in mood.  Formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, it is important to understand what triggers mood swings, be treated and plan ahead.

Bipolar I and Bipolar II are similar in that they both involve mood swings and depression. Bipolar II has milder periods of both elation and depression. This means people with Bipolar II (Hypomania) still swing in their moods but the episodes are less severe, last for shorter periods of time and don’t have delusions or hallucinations (this can be part of Bipolar I). Typically, the elation also doesn’t interfere with work and  social functioning as is the case in Bipolar I.

What to look for regarding mania:

1) Fast and racing thoughts and speech

2) Grandiose beliefs and inappropriate social behavior

3) Elation, euphoria

4) Poor judgement and impulsivity including increased sexual desire

5) Irritability and lots of energy

6) Decreased need for sleep

What to look for in terms of  hypomania:

1) Reckless behavior and risky pleasure seeking behavior

2) Decreased need for sleep

3) Elated mood and increased confidence

4) Feeling creative, energetic, and extremely focused on home or work projects

If you suspect you may be bipolar, get a physical exam from your doctor and report your symptoms. There is no physical test for bipolar disorder, but you may need a mood stabilizing medication and psychotherapy. Treatment focuses on stabilizing mood so the person can function well. Get the help that is available.