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13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do

2 years ago · · 0 comments

13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do

Amy MorinContributorPsychotherapist and international bestselling mental strength author

Raising mentally strong kids who are equipped to take on real-world challenges requires parents to give up the unhealthy — yet popular — parenting practices that are robbing kids of mental strength.

Of course, helping kids build mental muscle isn’t easy — it requires parents to be mentally strong as well. Watching kids struggle, pushing them to face their fears, and holding them accountable for their mistakes is tough. But those are the types of experiences kids need to reach their greatest potential.

Parents who train their children’s brains for a life of meaning, happiness, and success, avoid these 13 things:

1. They Don’t Condone A Victim Mentality

Getting cut from the soccer team or failing a class doesn’t make your child a victim. Rejection, failure, and unfairness are part of life. Rather than allow kids to host pity parties or exaggerate their misfortune, mentally strong parents encourage their children to turn their struggles into strength. They help them identify ways in which they can take positive action, despite their circumstances.

2. They Don’t Parent Out Of Guilt

Guilty feelings can lead to a long list of unhealthy parenting strategies — like giving in to your child after you’ve said no or overindulging your child on the holidays. Mentally strong parents know that although guilt is uncomfortable, it’s tolerable. They refuse to let their guilty feelings get in the way of making wise choices.

3. They Don’t Make Their Child The Center Of The Universe

It can be tempting to make your life revolve around your child. But kids who think they’re the center of the universe grow up to be self-absorbed and entitled. Mentally strong parents teach their kids to focus on what they have to offer the world — rather than what they’re owed.

4. They Don’t Allow Fear To Dictate Their Choices

Keeping your child inside a protective bubble could spare you a lot of anxiety. But keeping kids too safe stunts their development. Mentally strong parents view themselves as guides, not protectors. They allow their kids to go out into the world and experience life, even when it’s scary to let go.

5. They Don’t Give Their Child Power Over Them

Kids who dictate what the family is going to eat for dinner, or those who orchestrate how to spend their weekends, have too much power.  Becoming more like an equal — or even the boss — isn’t healthy for kids. Mentally strong parents empower kids to make appropriate choices while maintaining a clear hierarchy.

6. They Don’t Expect Perfection

High expectations are healthy, but expecting too much from kids will backfire. Mentally strong parents recognize that their kids are not going to excel at everything they do. Rather than push their kids to be better than everyone else, they focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves.

7. They Don’t Let Their Child Avoid Responsibility

You won’t catch a mentally strong parent saying things like, “I don’t want to burden my kids with chores. Kids should just be kids.” They expect children to pitch in and learn the skills they need to become responsible citizens. They proactively teach their kids to take responsibility for their choices and they assign them age-appropriate duties.

8. They Don’t Shield Their Child From Pain

It’s tough to watch kids struggle with hurt feelings or anxiety. But, kids need practice and first-hand experience tolerating discomfort. Mentally strong parents provide their kids with the support and help they need coping with pain so their kids can gain confidence in their ability to deal with whatever hardships life throws their way.

9. They Don’t Feel Responsible For Their Child’s Emotions

It can be tempting to cheer your kids up when they’re sad or calm them down when they’re angry. But, regulating your kids’ emotions for them prevents them from gaining social and emotional skills. Mentally strong parents teach their children how to be responsible for their own emotions so they don’t depend on others to do it for them.

10. They Don’t Prevent Their Child From Making Mistakes

Whether your child gets a few questions wrong on his math homework or he forgets to pack his cleats for soccer practice, mistakes can be life’s greatest teacher. Mentally strong parents let their kids mess up — and they allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions.

11. They Don’t Confuse Discipline With Punishment

Punishment is about making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline is about teaching them how to do better in the future. And while mentally strong parents do give out consequences, their ultimate goal is to teach kids to develop the self-discipline they’ll need to make better choices down the road.

12. They Don’t Take Shortcuts To Avoid Discomfort

Giving in when a child whines or doing your kids’ chores for them, is fast and easy. But, those shortcuts teach kids unhealthy habits. It takes mental strength to tolerate discomfort and avoid those tempting shortcuts.

13. They Don’t Lose Sight Of Their Values


In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day business of homework, chores, and sports practices. Those hectic schedules — combined with the pressure to look like parent of the year on social media —cause many people to lose sight of what’s really important in life. Mentally strong parents know their values and they ensure their family lives according to them.

Scientists Show How Gratitude Literally Alters The Human Heart & Molecular Structure Of The Brain

2 years ago · · 0 comments

Scientists Show How Gratitude Literally Alters The Human Heart & Molecular Structure Of The Brain

Published 1 month ago

on February 14, 2019

ByArjun Walia

In Brief

  • The Facts:Scientists have discovered that feelings of gratitude can actually change your brain. Feeling gratitude can also be a great tool for overcoming depression and anxiety. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that the heart sends signals to the brain.
  • Reflect On:Every time we struggle with depression, why are we constantly encouraged to take prescription medication when mindfulness techniques actually show more promise?

Gratitude is a funny thing. In some parts of the world, somebody who gets a clean drink of water, some food, or a worn out pair of shoes can be extremely grateful. Meanwhile, somebody else who has all the necessities they need to live can be found complaining about something. What we have today is what we once wanted before, but there is a lingering belief out there that obtaining material possessions is the key to happiness. Sure, this may be true, but that happiness is temporary. The truth is that happiness is an inside job. advertisement – learn more

It’s a matter of perspective, and in a world where we are constantly made to feel like we are lacking and always ‘wanting’ more, it can be difficult to achieve or experience actual happiness. Many of us are always looking toward external factors to experience joy and happiness, when really it’s all related to internal work. This is something science is just starting to grasp as well, as shown by research coming out of UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. According to them:Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant. Now that’s a really cool way of taking care of your well-being.

There are many studies showing that people who count their blessings tend to be far happier and experience less depression.  For one study,  researchers recruited people with mental health difficulties, including people suffering from anxiety and depression. The study involved nearly 300 adults who were randomly divided into three groups. This study came from the University of California, Berkeley.

This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief. (source)

Previously, a study on gratitude conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami randomly assigned participants to be given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another group recorded daily troubles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative. Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the troubled group. They reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more. (source)

Researchers from Berkeley identified how gratitude might actually work on our minds and bodies. They provided four insights from their research suggesting what causes the psychological benefits of gratitude.

There are many studies showing that people who count their blessings tend to be far happier and experience less depression.  For one study,  researchers recruited people with mental health difficulties, including people suffering from anxiety and depression. The study involved nearly 300 adults who were randomly divided into three groups. This study came from the University of California, Berkeley.

All groups received counselling services, but the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.

What did they find? Compared to the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counselling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief. (source)

Previously, a study on gratitude conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami randomly assigned participants to be given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another group recorded daily troubles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative. Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the troubled group. They reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more. (source)

Researchers from Berkeley identified how gratitude might actually work on our minds and bodies. They provided four insights from their research suggesting what causes the psychological benefits of gratitude.

  • Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
  • Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it
  • Gratitude’s benefits take time & practice. You might not feel it right away.
  • Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain

The brain part is very interesting. The researchers at Berkeley used an fMRI scanner to measure brain activity while people from each group did a “pay it forward” task.  During the task, the participants were given money by a “nice person.” This person’s only request was that they pass on the money to someone if they felt grateful.

They did this because they wanted to distinguish between actions motivated by gratitude and actions driven by other motivations like obligation, guilt, or what other people think. This is important because you can’t fake gratitude, you actually have to feel it. If you don’t feel grateful or practice trying to feel grateful by taking the necessary steps like keeping a gratitude journal, you may not experience as much joy and happiness.

In a world where emotions aren’t really taught in school and the importance is put on striving for high grades, it’s not abnormal to have difficulty feeling grateful. This is especially understandable if you’ve been brought up in the western world, which is full of consumerism and competition, a world where we’re constantly made to feel we are lacking so we need to strive for more.

Participants were asked to rate how grateful they felt toward the person giving them the money and how much they wanted to pay it forward to a charitable cause as well as how guilty they thought they would feel if they didn’t help.  They were also given questionnaires to measure how grateful they felt in general.

We found that across the participants, when people felt more grateful, their brain activity was distinct from brain activity related to guilt and the desire to help a cause. More specifically, we found that when people who are generally more grateful gave more money to a cause, they showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making. This suggests that people who are more grateful are also more attentive to how they express gratitude.

Most interestingly, when we compared those who wrote the gratitude letters with those who didn’t, the gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner. This is striking as this effect was found three months after the letter writing began. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time

It’s also interesting to note that a recent study just discovered a brain network that “gives rise to feelings of gratitude. The study could spur future investigations into how these ‘building blocks’ transform social information into complex emotions.” (source)

What About The Heart?

The work and research above is great, but where do we actually experience these feelings? They are clearly not a product of our brain, they are products of our consciousness, and when we feel them the brain responds.  Researchers are now discovering that the heart also responds and that it might actually be the heart that’s responsible for sending these signals to the brain.

A group of prestigious and internationally recognized leaders in physics, biophysics, astrophysics, education, mathematics, engineering, cardiology, biofeedback, and psychology (among other disciplines) have been doing some brilliant work over at the Institute of HeartMath.

Their work, among many others, has proven that when a person is feeling really positive emotions like gratitude, love, or appreciation, the heart beats out a different message, which determines what kind of signals are sent to the brain.

Not only that, but because the heart beats out the largest electromagnetic field produced in the body, the Institute has been able to gather a significant amount of data.

According to Rolin McCratey, Ph.D, and Director of Research at Heartmath?)

“Emotional information is actually coded and modulated into these fields. By learning to shift our emotions, we are changing the information coded into the magnetic fields that are radiated by the heart, and that can impact those around us. We are fundamentally and deeply connected with each other and the planet itself.” (source)

Another great point made below by the Institute:

“One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – experiencing stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them are greater mental clarity and ability, including better decision making.” (source)

In fact, the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends in return. What’s even more amusing is the fact that these heart signals (from heart to brain) actually have a significant effect on brain function.

Research findings have shown that as we practice heart coherence and radiate love and compassion, our heart generates a coherent electromagnetic wave into the local field environment that facilitates social coherence, whether in the home, workplace, classroom or sitting around a table. As more individuals radiate heart coherence, it builds an energetic field that makes it easier for others to connect with their heart. So, theoretically it is possible that enough people building individual and social coherence could actually contribute to an unfolding global coherence. –  McCratey

So far, the researchers have discovered that the heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways: neurological communication (nervous system), biophysical communication (pulse wave), biochemical communication (hormones), and energetic communication (electromagnetic fields).

“HeartMath research has demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity (which accompany different emotional states) have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive function. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect. It facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability.” (source)

Gratitude and Positive Feelings Can Change The World

It gets deeper:

Every individual’s energy affects the collective field environment. The means each person’s emotions and intentions generate an energy that affects the field. A first step in diffusing societal stress in the global field is for each of us to take personal responsibility for our own energies. We can do this by increasing our personal coherence and raising our vibratory rate, which helps us become more conscious of the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that we are feeding the field each day. We have a choice in every moment to take to heart the significance of intentionally managing our energies. This is the free will or local freedom that can create global cohesion. – Dr. Deborah Rozman, the President of Quantum Intech (source)

Overall, this type of work suggests that human consciousness in general can change the world.

One study, for example, was done during the Israel-Lebanon war in the 1980s. Two Harvard University professors organized groups of experienced meditators in Jerusalem, Yugoslavia and the United Sates and asked them to focus their attention on the area of conflict at various intervals over a 27-month period. Over the course of the study, the levels of violence in Lebanon decreased between 40 and 80 percent each time a meditating group was in place. The average number of people killed during the war each day dropped from 12 to three, and war-related injuries fell by 70 percent. (source)

Another great example is a study that was conducted in 1993 in Washington, D.C., which showed a 25 percent drop in crime rates when 2,500 meditators meditated during a specific period of time with that intention.

This type of information is heavily correlated with quantum physics, as many experiments in that area as well as parapsychology (telepathy, remote viewing, distant healing) indicate similar findings. (source)

This holds true as far back as 1999. Statistics professor Jessica Utts at UC Irvine published a papershowing that parapsychological experiments have produced much stronger results than those showing a daily dose of aspirin helps prevent heart attacks. Utts also showed that these results are much stronger than the research behind various drugs like antiplatelets.

This type of work has statistically significant implications, yet is heavily ignored and labelled as pseudoscience simply because it conflicts with long-held beliefs we have trouble letting go of … But times are changing.

“For many years I have worked with researchers doing very careful work [in parapsychology], including a year that I spent full-time working on a classified project for the United States government, to see if we could use these abilities for intelligence gathering during the Cold War… At the end of that project I wrote a report for Congress, stating what I still think is true. The data in support of precognition and possibly other related phenomena are quite strong statistically, and would be widely accepted if it pertained to something more mundane. Yet, most scientists reject the possible reality of these abilities without ever looking at data! And on the other extreme, there are true believers who base their beliefs solely on anecdotes and personal experience. I have asked debunkers if there is any amount of data that would convince them, and they generally have responded by saying, “probably not.” I ask them what original research they have read, and they mostly admit that they haven’t read any. Now there is a definition of pseudo-science-basing conclusions on belief rather than data!” – Utts, Chair of the Statistics Department, UC Irvine (Dean Radin, Real Magic)

The Takeaway

Emotions and other factors associated with consciousness have the power to transform our inner world in ways we don’t fully understand yet. These findings show how consciousness can actually transform the physical/material world, and that’s huge. This validates the idea that if we can change our inner world through gratitude, empathy, compassion, and meditation, we can make our outer world more peaceful.

https://www.collective-evolution.com/2019/02/14/scientists-show-how-gratitude-literally-alters-the-human-heart-molecular-structure-of-the-brain/
CE Staff Writer

5 Lessons Most People Learn Way Too Late in Life

2 years ago · · 0 comments

5 Lessons Most People Learn Way Too Late in Life

It’s best to learn these lessons while you’re still young.


By Quora

https://www.inc.com/quora/5-lessons-most-people-learn-way-too-late-in-life.html?cid=sf01002&sr_share=facebook

What are the lessons people most often learn too late in life?” originally appeared on Quora–the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Alyssa Satara, co-founder at Refugee Code Academy, on Quora:

1. Perception is reality

It’s true. The way you interpret and understand the world directly affects your beliefs and the way you live your life. Perception creates bias as much as it creates understanding. It creates fear as much as it creates curiosity.

Do you want your reality to be narrow or vast?

Will the bliss that ignorance provides be sufficient, or do you need more?

The truth is most people want more. Even if it is on a subconscious level. Humans tend to trail blaze. From cradle to the grave, our society emphasizes the importance of education. Learning and discovering is what we do, but still it is increasingly hard to understand what you don’t understand.

So how do you learn to know what you don’t know? Start by asking yourself: What don’t I know? What do you want to learn more about?

Most importantly, understand that it’s OK to be wrong. In error there is growth.

2. Everything is temporary

Your good times are temporary and your bad times are temporary. So when you’re up, enjoy it, bask in it, and be grateful for it. And when you’re down, know you will get through it. Know that it’s not the end, and that it’s just a rough patch. Life is full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and surprises.

We forget that it’s about the journey not the destination.

There is a lesson in everything. I think it’s hard for a lot of people–especially young people–to appreciate life. Recognizing the full worth of your hardships and your blunders is key to appreciating the journey. It’s just as important to stay humble and be grateful for the joys life brings you.

Everything is temporary, so make the most out of all of it.

3. The importance of being present

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” —Lao Tzu

More often than not, we tend to worry about what’s to come, or dwell on something that’s already happened. While it’s crucial to care and consider your future, be careful not to let it hinder your present. Moments turn into memories. Enjoy the moment while you have it.

It usually takes a lifetime of piled up worries for a person to realize: Worrying isn’t productive.

Living in the past is equally unproductive. There are definitely benefits in being able to reflect on yourself and on your past. Paying attention to what you’ve been through and how that makes you feel matters. It takes a lot of emotional energy to grieve, process, and overcome.

The balance of being able to take time to reflect, and to prioritize your future while spending the majority of your day in the present, is beyond valuable, it’s life changing.

4. Do what you love, love what you do

There was a huge mosaic near my university in London that said that those words. I was grateful to walk past it almost every day and remind myself of the importance of loving your career and loving what you do. Your work is a considerably large aspect in your life that you dedicate yourself to. If you aren’t happy in your career, that unhappiness will seep into other aspects of your life. And while nothing is perfect, it’s important to work on yourself and position yourself to reach the goals and satisfactions you desire.

Most importantly: Invest in yourself.

This goes for your non-work life, too. What habits and hobbies do you want to stop? Which ones do you want to develop? It’s important to be conscious of the type of people and activities you surround yourself with. Information is like nutrients to your brain, be aware of what you are feeding yourself. Success isn’t one triumphant moment. Success is a series of moments (and choices) leading up to bigger moments.

You are the only person who can get in the way of living every day doing what you love.

Bob Dylan said it best when he said “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”

5. Being happy takes work

The happiest people tend to be the ones who’ve worked the most on themselves. Being happy takes a lot of work. It’s just as much work–if not more– to be unhappy. So choose wisely. Being happy means at some point you decided to take control of your life. It means you decided to not be a victim and to put that energy back into yourself. Sometimes it’s hard, but you have to pull yourself up and push yourself forward.

Your lifetime is a series of developments and personal growth.

One of the worst things you can do for self-development is comparing yourself to other people. It’s easy to get caught up in jealousy and wanting what other people have. Especially with the way we interact with social media. You have to remember that people tend to show only the best parts of their lives on those platforms. It’s not fair to yourself when you see that and think “I want to do that” or “I want to look like that”. Not only does that distract you from being appreciative of what you have in our own life, it doesn’t provide any productive input to yourself. Most often, your perception of someone’s life is a fallacy. And even if it isn’t, focus on yourself. It’s your journey and your path that you should be concerned with.

Being happy takes practice. Whether it’s you learning to let go of your ego, or forming more self-loving habits…it takes practice. You only have one life, work as hard as you can to make it your best life.


Five Ways to Help Teens Feel Good about Themselves

2 years ago · · 0 comments

Five Ways to Help Teens Feel Good about Themselves

As teens struggle with anxiety and perfectionism, how can we help them like who they are?

BY AMY L. EVA | MAY 21, 2018P

No one wants to hang out with me. I’m a failure at school. All my other friends seem happy. What’s wrong with me?

These kinds of negative thoughts are becoming more common in our homes and schools. Teens are experiencing increased anxiety, and studies indicate that college students in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States are becoming more perfectionistic over time, measuring themselves against unrealistic standards.

Why is this happening? We can’t say for sure—but we do know there are steps teens can take to improve their mental health.

2018 study of early adolescents suggests that self-concept (your perception of self) plays a central role in emotional well-being. According to the study, a supportive classroom environment and positive social relationships also affect teen well-being—but the impact is indirect. Positive self-concept seems to be the key variable in the well-being equation. If a student feels good about herself, then she may be more likely to connect with others and benefit from the supports provided at school.

So, how can we influence how students think about themselves? This may feel like a very tall order; yet there is a lot of research out there that provides some clues for supporting the teens in your life. Here are five ways to help tweens and teens move toward a more positive self-concept.

1. Get physical

Although you may have heard this before, kids really can benefit from regular exercise (especially when their tendency is to sit in front of a screen). A recent review of 38 international studies indicates that physical activity alone can improve self-esteem and self-concept in children and adolescents.

Apparently, the exercise setting also matters. Students who participated in supervised activities in schools or gymnasiums reported more significant growth in self-esteem than those who exercised at home and in other settings.

Adolescents’ self-concept is most strongly linked to their sense of physical attractivenessand body image, an area where many people struggle. So, encourage more regular exercise programs during and after school, and support team sports, strength training, running, yoga, and swimming—not just for their effects on the body but on the mind, as well. Getting out and engaging in some form of exercise can make us feel stronger, healthier, and more empowered.

2. Focus on self-compassion (not self-esteem)

Because self-esteem is a global evaluation of your overall worth, it has its dangers. What am I achieving? Am I good enough? How do I compare with my peers?

What would happen if we could stop judging ourselves? Researcher Kristen Neff claims that self-compassion—treating yourself with kindness, openness, and acceptance—is a healthy alternative to the incessant striving and performance orientation often tied up with self-esteem. 

In her study of adolescents and young adults, she found that participants with higher self-compassion demonstrated greater well-being. Why? They were okay with their flaws, acknowledged that they struggled just like those around them (“Everybody makes mistakes; you are not alone”), and treated themselves with the same kindness they would extend to a friend (“It’s okay; you did your best”).

  • How Would You Treat a Friend?Build resilience by changing the way you respond to challengesTry It Now

If you are interested in specific techniques and strategies for enhancing self-compassion in teens, take a look at the work of psychologist Karen Bluth. She recently developed a program called Making Friends with Yourself. Youth participating in this eight-week program reported greater resilience, less depression, and less stress at the end of it. However, if there isn’t a program near you, consider sharing this self-compassion workbook with the teens in your life.

3. Avoid social comparison

When we focus on self-esteem, we tend to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others. Teens, in particular, often sense an “imaginary audience” (i.e., “Everyone is looking at me!”) and can become highly sensitized to who they are relative to everyone around them.

Instagram and other social media platforms don’t necessarily help. Some research suggests an association between social media and depression, anxiety, loneliness, and FoMO (fear of missing out) among teens. Their posts may not rack up the number of “likes” that their friends’ posts do, or they may feel excluded when they see pictures of classmates happily spending time together without them.

A new app for teen girls called Maverick may be a healthier option than Snapchat or Instagram. On this social media platform, teens can connect with role models (called “Catalysts”) and explore their creativity (such as designing their own superhero or choosing a personal mantra). Of course, there is always the option of taking a break from social media, as well.

Regardless of what teens choose to do online, many of our schools are also structured for social comparison. Grading, labeling, and tracking practices (grouping students based on their academic performance) don’t necessarily honor the stops, starts, and inevitable mistakes that are a natural part of the learning process.

Here are some school-based alternatives designed to reduce social comparison:

  • Don’t make grades public.
  • Provide opportunities to revise and redo assignments.
  • Avoid ability grouping as much as possible.
  • Focus on individual growth and improvement.
  • Acknowledge students’ small successes.

4. Capitalize on specific skills

If you keep your eye out for teens’ talents and interests, you can support them in cultivating their strengths. Your son may think he is a terrible athlete, but he lights up when he works on school science projects. Then there’s that quiet, disheveled ninth-grade girl who sits in the back of your class. She may feel socially awkward, but she wows you with her poetry.

Researcher Susan Harter has studied adolescent self-esteem and self-concept for years. She claims that self-concept is domain-specific. Our overall self-esteem or sense of worth tends to be rooted in eight distinct areas: athletic competence, scholastic competence, behavioral conduct, social acceptance, close friendship, romantic appeal, job satisfaction, and physical attractiveness.

Talk to the teens in your life. What are their personal values and priorities? Share surveys with them like the VIA (which identifies character strengths like bravery, honesty, and leadership) or have them take a multiple intelligences quiz. Celebrate their talents and tailor activities and instruction around their abilities as much as possible.

It may not be easy to shift teens’ global sense of self-worth, but we can certainly highlight and encourage areas of interest and particular skill sets so that they feel more confident, capable, and inspired.

5. Help others (especially strangers)

Finally, when teens reach out to others, they are more likely to feel better about themselves. A 2017 study of 681 U.S. adolescents (ages 11-14) examined their kind and helpful behavior over a four-year period. Researchers found that adolescents who were kind and helpful in general had higher self-esteem, but those who directed their generosity toward strangers (not friends and family) tended to grow in self-esteem.

Last Friday, I joined my daughter and her peers during the “action” phase of their “Change the World” project. Their social studies teacher, Tim Owens, tasked the eighth graders with choosing a sustainability issue, researching the problem and possible solutions, planning action, and implementing the action.

These middle schoolers spent a full day canvasing their neighborhoods to advocate for policies that protected people they don’t know, like local refugees and homeless youth—as well as animals used for product testing. I’ve never seen my daughter and her friends more energized, confident, and engaged with their community.

  • Encouraging Kindness in KidsHow to praise kids in ways that make them more kindTry It Now

As adults, we can actively support service learning projects in our schools and our teens’ interests in advocacy and civil engagement. Adolescents around the world can also work remotely with non-profit organizations like DoSomething, “a digital platform promoting offline action” in 131 countries. On this site, young people can choose a cause, the amount of time they want to commit to it, and the type of help they would like to provide (e.g., face-to-face, improving a space, making something, sharing something, etc.)

When teens regularly contribute to a larger cause, they learn to think beyond themselves, which may ultimately help them to be more positive, empowered, and purposeful. 

As many teens struggle with anxiety and perfectionism, our urge may be to jump in and fix their problems, whatever we perceive them to be. But a better approach, one that will hopefully help reverse these worrying trends, is to cheer them on as they develop the mental habits and strengths that will support them throughout their lives.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_to_help_teens_feel_good_about_themselves