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in Psychology

Strategies for Effective Communication
 

Our communication tends to suffer the most when we are emotionally charged and clarity is most important. In these moments, we often speak in long jumbled paragraphs as we struggle to understand what we are feeling and attempting to convey. This article conceptualizes effective communication and details 7 useful tools to strengthen this fundamental component of all relationships.

"Unhealthy verbal communication often starts not with words but with negative thoughts or difficult emotions. If you are in a long-term romantic relationship, you have spent so much time with our partner that you feel you know them inside-out. You anticipate how they react in certain situations. You have painted a picture of who they are and you may fail to re-discover them. This often has a negative impact on how we communicate in a romantic relationship. Because relationships are all about cultivating the differences and remaining curious who the other person really is and how they see the world."

 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Positive Psychology and Recovery
 

Excellent piece on the value of positive psychology in strengths-based treatments for addiction. A successful journey out of addiction must go beyond symptom reduction to utilize our unique strengths and insights. Recovery is an opportunity for transformation and rapid growth!

"In effective addiction treatment, positive psychological approaches play an important role in achieving long-term addiction recovery goals. Traditionally, addicts are told that they have a disease; that they will have to manage it for the rest of their lives; to expect relapse and that from a statistical perspective, most will die from their illness. This is a tremendously demoralizing prognosis to provide to someone. A positive psychologist would reframe the situation, suggesting that addiction is a behavioral disorder and even the most entrenched behaviors can be changed. While not denying the negative statistics surrounding addiction recovery, a reframing of the opportunity to recover into something attainable is empowering and motivating to many who suffer from substance abuse."
 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Positive Psychology Course at Columbia University
 

Generous feedback on RateMyProfessor from the graduate students of my Positive Psychology course at Columbia University this past year: 

"Professor Barton inspired me to create a daily habit of mindfulness and consider positive psychology as an important facet in a broad range of modalities and treatments. Yakov explained concepts very well. He created a class space that was structured while at the same time encouraging for students to freely express thoughts without judgement."
 
"Yakov is an amazing resource within the positive psychology field. His positive psychology class is uniquely positioned to showcase his extensive experience with the best mindfulness training techniques that combine leading psychology research with age-old meditation knowledge."
 
"Positive Psychology was a class for which I had very high expectations, and Dr. Barton matched them all. I am so grateful to have learned so much about PosPsy, and the readings were almost universally great. His lectures are clear and he is very supportive inout of class."
 
"I took Professor Barton's Positive Psychology class at Columbia University. Uses a fascinating approach to teaching positive psychology material, including experiential meditationrelaxation exercises, lectures, group activities, films, and a class debate on the current state of the field. Learned a ton, highly recommended!"
 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Social Media as Behavioral Addiction
 

Insight into the ways Facebook is systematically designed to promote behavioral addiction, consuming as much of our anxious attention and time as possible.

“The thought process was all about, ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ ...And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever, and that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you more likes and comments. It’s a social validation feedback loop. … You’re exploiting a vulnerabilty in human psychology.”    -Sean Parker
 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Phubbing
 

PHUBBING—the act of snubbing the people you are with in favor of being on your phone—unsurprisingly has a negative impact on our relationships, particularly with a primary partner.

"There’s an irony in phubbing. When we’re staring at our phones, we’re often connecting with someone on social media or through texting. Sometimes, we’re flipping through our pictures the way we once turned the pages of photo albums, remembering moments with people we love. Unfortunately, however, this can severely disrupt our actual, present-moment, in-person relationships, which also tend to be our most important ones."

Here’s an interesting summary of research on the effects of phubbing and strategies to counter these addictive patterns.

 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
 

Emotional intelligence is an often overlooked yet invaluable area of personal resilience and development.

"We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions." -Profs Peter Salovey & John Mayer

Here's a useful article conceptualizing emotional intelligence and how it can be purposefully cultivated.

 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Health Support vs. Codependency
 

How do we balance empathic warmth and tough accountability in supporting those we love the most? An interesting look at the challenge of balancing both without falling into the realm of codependency.

"Helping a loved one achieve his or her goals can require criticism rather than warmth, harshness rather than comfort. It’s difficult to give complacency-shattering feedback while simultaneously making someone feel valued [and] loved."
 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Developmental Depression
 

Compelling evidence that depression can spur invaluable grappling, self insight, and life-changing transformation!

"If depression is a strategic response that we are programmed to carry out, consciously or unconsciously, does it make sense to try to suppress its symptoms through, say, the use of antidepressants? Hagen describes antidepressants as painkillers, arguing that it would be unethical for a doctor to treat a broken ankle with Percocet and no cast. You need to fix the underlying problem. He regrets the fact that the DSM, psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, has removed from major depressive disorder’s diagnostic criteria any exception for life circumstance, even bereavement. This is part of an effort to make diagnosis more objective and scientific, and encourage the profession to focus on observable symptoms rather than causes."
 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Sleep Hygiene
 

Sleep... the #1 most important ingredient for mental health. Learn how sleep hygiene can transform the quality of your sleeping & waking life.

Here are some useful strategies on sleep hygiene from the American Sleep Association:

  • Maintain a regular sleep routine
  • Avoid naps if possible
  • Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes.
  • Don’t watch TV or read in bed.
  • Drink caffeinated drinks with caution
  • Avoid inappropriate substances that interfere with sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Have a quiet, comfortable bedroom
  • If you are a ‘clock watcher’ at night, hide the clock.
  • Have a comfortable pre-bedtime routine
 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Managing Our Anxiety
 

We play an active role in choosing whether to harness or be hindered by our anxiety. This research suggests that we can cultivate the ability to utilize our stress to enhance our performance.

"Anxiety is a normal, healthy emotion. It’s meant to alert you to danger. When you encounter a dangerous situation, your fight or flight response is activated. That surge of energy encourages you take action that will keep you alive. But most people experience anxiety in situations that aren't actually life threatening. Going to a job interview, speaking up for yourself, or giving a speech probably won’t kill you. But when you’re in those situations, your body may react as though you’re dangling from the edge of a cliff with one arm. Historically, anxiety has often been viewed as the enemy. ...But new research suggests that anxiety doesn't always have to impair performance. In fact, it may enhance it."
 
Yakov Barton, PhD
Understanding the Challenge of Mindful Presence
 

Excellent NYT opinion piece by Seligman and Tierney on the origins or our difficulty in maintaining mindful presence in our daily lives. 

"What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation."
 
Yakov Barton, PhD