February 2017
In This Issue

Podcast of the Month

The show ' Invisibilia' explores those invisible forces -- ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions -- that help shape human behavior.

It's co-hosted by a trio of NPR's award-winning journalists:  Alix Spiegel, Lulu Miller and Hanna Rosin.

The podcast is two years old. Some of the early episodes might be the most interesting, psychologically speaking. They include 'The Secret History of Thoughts' and 'Fearless'.

To find archived episodes, go to  www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/archive.

Cursing and Intelligence

According to a recent scientific study, intelligent people use more swear words.

Researchers at Marist College in New York say a large vocabulary of curse words is a sign of higher rhetorical skill.

These findings challenge the stereotype that people curse because they can't find more intelligent things to say. (The most common curse word was the f-word).

The study also found that curse word fluency was connected to neuroticism and openness, and that there was no major difference in results between men and women.

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How to Handle Trump Anxiety

DC Talk Therapy founder and director David Sternberg was recently interviewed by Channel 9 News on how best to handle anxiety in the age of Donald Trump.  Here's a link to the interview, including his five tips: 

New Year's Resolutions. Really?

January is over and your New Year's resolutions of going to the gym more often, losing weight or spending less money have already gone out the window.

So, what happened?

One problem is the folly of making resolutions on an artificial date. On Jan. 1, so many of us feel pressure to voice some kind of change in the new year, without giving much thought to its meaning or relevance. So, we create resolutions that are somewhat empty or generic, like losing weight.

Often, we have to hit 'rock bottom' before we start climbing back up - and there's no set date for that.

For example, it would have far greater impact and resonance if we decided to quit smoking on May 17 after a weekend of smoking four packs of Marlboro Reds, after which we had trouble taking in deep breaths on Monday morning.

Another problem is that our goals are often unrealistic or unquantifiable. We say that we want to 'lose weight', but what does that really mean? Five pounds? Ten? Thirty? More?

If the goal is too vague or general, we don't know what we're trying to achieve, thereby severely decreasing the chances of success. It also helps to aim for something specific, with a specific target date, like training for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Apr. 2, 2017.

Also, there's something about New Year's resolutions that lends itself to grand statements of change. Does this sound familiar: "This year I'm going to get in the best shape of my life."

This kind of thinking almost certainly sets us up for failure. It's short-sighted and unsustainable.

It's true that there's nothing sexy about a more modest goal, like "I'd like to increase my bench press by 50% this year" but it's precisely those kinds of goals that are achievable. Remember, the tortoise wins the race, not the hare.

Finally, our distorted thoughts about the concept of change tend to trip us up.

So, if our goal was hitting the gym three times a week and we miss six days in a row in February due to work obligations and bad weather, we may believe that all is lost and we give up.

Change is not an all-or-nothing proposition. On the contrary. Sustainable change only occurs through fits and starts; it's rarely a straight line. There are going to be some failures along the way but it's important to understand that those are part of a larger whole.

Now that you know why those resolutions failed, what can you do about it now?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Write your list and quantify everything on it. An example: Go from "I want to save more money this year" to "I want to save $350 per month, and to do so I'm going to eat dinner out only once a week, get rid of cable and create an account on Mint where I track my progress at the end of every month."

2. Have realistic expectations. Understand that some days or weeks you're going to fall off the wagon and not meet your goal. That's OK. Perfection is not the goal, change over the long haul is.

3. Only make declarations that are authentic to you. If you want to learn how to play jazz guitar or you want to learn Japanese, then do that. Resolutions are about what you want to change about yourself, not what you think you should change about yourself.

David Sternberg, LICSW, is the founder and director of DC Talk Therapy.

Tip of the Month

Most of us have a lot of anxiety around  public speaking.  One negative belief that perpetuates our anxiety is that others are judging and criticizing everything we say and do.

While some in the audience may be guilty of that, many people actually want you to succeed and are cheering for you. Why? Because they want to walk away with some new information or skill. Think about that next time you're about to go on stage.