How to avoid the 9 ‘thinking traps’ stopping you from achieving your goals

depressed lonely
In cognitive behavioural therapy, all thinking traps have one thing in common: as a general rule, they aren’t realistic, nor are they helpful.

  • As soon as something goes wrong in our lives, we tend to fall into negative “thinking traps”.
  • Not only do they prevent us from achieving our goals; they can have a serious effect on our health.
  • Psychologist Elke Overdick says there’s a way to rid yourself of some of these thinking traps.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The moment something unforeseen happens, many of us tend to slip into negative thinking habits.

Not only do these thinking patterns drag you down when it comes to achieving your goals – they can, in extreme cases, be detrimental to your health.

“Humans are very creative when it comes to finding new ways of thinking unconstructively and unrealistically,” explained psychologist Elke Overdick. “But in my experience, these nine – with which I enjoy working very much – are the most common.”

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, all thinking traps have one thing in common. As a general rule, they don’t meet the criteria for appropriate thinking:

  1. Thinking should be realistic.
  2. They should be helpful.

That may sound pretty obvious but it’s hard to ensure all your thoughts always fulfill these two criteria.

Take perfectionism or people-pleasing as examples: neither thought pattern is realistic or helpful and yet many of us fall into these thinking traps. Unfortunately, by the time we notice, it’s usually too late.

“To be honest, I’ve never met anyone, myself included, who isn’t affected by thinking traps,” said Overdick.

In an interview with Insider, she explained how you can manage or even rid yourself of these negative thinking patterns.

Being an overly harsh critic

Self-deprecation is one of the most common and worst thought traps.
Self-deprecation is one of the most common and worst thought traps.

Self-deprecation can be very damaging.

“I think it’s the worst thinking trap of them all,” said Overdick.

If you keep telling yourself you’re not likable or loveable, that means you’re focusing single-mindedly on your weaknesses.

“And if you only look at your weaknesses,” she said, “then, of course, it will be hard to like yourself because you’re not picking up on your strengths or your potential.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

If you’re doing the above, are your thought patterns reasonable? Probably not.

“If you have friends or there are people in your family who enjoy spending time with you, that’s evidence that, realistically, you have positive or lovable qualities”.

As well as bearing this in mind, it might also be helpful to make a list of your own positive qualities.

If, on the other hand, it’s your work you’re devaluing and you genuinely believe you aren’t good enough for your job, you need to bear in mind that companies are always thinking about how to fill vacancies.

When negative thoughts enter your head, actively try to remind yourself to be realistic by saying “I am lovable” or “I make an important contribution”.

Catastrophizing

stressed office worker
If anxious thoughts get out of hand and become unrealistic, you’ve fallen into a thinking trap.

“Anxious thoughts can be rational and, to a certain extent, serve an important purpose,” said Overdick.

“If we’re afraid or worried, we may be able to better prepare ourselves for or avoid situations that endanger us — however, if the thoughts get out of hand and become unrealistic, you’ve fallen into a thinking trap.

How to get out of the thinking trap

Overdick likes to work with five questions against fears and inhibitions. These questions can help bring your fearful thoughts down to a realistic level and work as a good guard against catastrophic thinking. Here they are:

1. What’s the worst that could happen?

2. What can I do to prevent “the worst that could happen”?

3. How likely is it the worst thing will happen?

4. What can I do if the worst thing does happen?

5. What will it mean for my future if the worst thing happens?

If you take a moment to answer these questions, you may find that the problem is not as bad as you’d previously thought and, equally, that the worst-case scenario isn’t either.

Rather than worrying, try saying to yourself: “I can handle it” or “There is always a way”.

Taking on too much responsibility

Those who want to take care of everything end up more susceptible to burnout.
Aiming to take care of everything will only make you more susceptible to burnout.

Do you sometimes feel responsible for things that are out of your hands? Do you often feel like you want to influence things you can’t change?

That’s a sign you have a tendency to take on too much responsibility.

While it may sound a positive trait, unfortunately, your behavior can also have a negative impact on others, as Overdick explains: “People in this thinking trap sometimes tend to incapacitate others without intending to and, obviously, with no malicious intent at all — but not delegating tasks to others might prevent those people from learning something and progressing themselves.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

Sometimes you can take the time to ask yourself whether something is really your job, or you can ask yourself whether you can actually influence a situation.

Remind yourself: “That’s not my job”, “I have no influence over this” or “I’ll let another person do this for their own development”.

Dealing only in absolutes

demands
Unfortunately, you have to face the facts: you are not the measure of all things.

We all have values and standards we adhere to in life.

People who fall into the trap of absolute demands, “musts”, and “shoulds” find it very important to adhere to these values — perhaps even to an exaggerated degree.

“If someone doesn’t adhere to your standards and you can’t accept that, you’ll end up angry. Often we forget that our values aren’t universal.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

Unfortunately, you have to face the facts: you are not the measure of all things.

“Sometimes it’s also good to be in others’ shoes. Other people have different rules that may be just as good and valuable to them as yours are to you,” Overdick explains. “The trick to managing this trap lies in accepting that there are basically no universal values and standards.”

Values and standards are subjective — they vary from person to person and are influenced by things like upbringing, culture, religion, and education.

Alternatives thoughts for when you find yourself stuck in the “must” or “should” mindset are “I am not the measure of all things” or “standards and values are subjective”.

Perfectionism

mirror
If you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, you aren’t just putting yourself under a lot of pressure: you can’t develop any further either.

Salvador Dali once said: “Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.”

Perfectionists expect themselves and others to be perfect and end up failing massively.

“It’s unrealistic and unattainable,” said Overdick.

However, perfectionism shouldn’t be confused with striving to improve.

It’s useful to strive to better oneself so you can develop, progress, and be successful. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is not.

“If you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, you aren’t just putting yourself under a lot of pressure; you can’t develop any further either because, without mistakes, you can’t learn.

How to get out of the thinking trap

The goal should be to see the positive in mistakes and to accept one’s own mistakes, as well as those of others.

“Mistakes are a learning experience and help you to progress. They teach you how to do things differently and how to get closer to your goals.

Instead of looking into the past with an “Oh God, how could I have done that” mentality, Overdick said it’s more productive to think of the future and say to yourself: “Okay, that went badly and I did it wrong. Next time I’ll do it better.”

Alternatives phrases to say to yourself include “mistakes get me ahead in the long-run”, “mistakes are human” or even “mistakes make me likable”.

“After all, nobody wants to be around someone perfect all the time,” said the psychologist.

People-pleasing

people-pleasing party drinks woman man
It’s just unrealistic to aim to be liked by everyone.

Can you think of a single well-known public figure who has ever managed to be liked by everyone?

The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi? Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon?

While all these people were admired by many, they were by no means liked by everyone. This is demonstrative of how unrealistic it is to aim to be liked by everyone.

How to get out of the thinking trap

“I think it’s very important to remind yourself that you don’t like everyone,” said Overdick.

“Whether or not someone likes you depends on so many different factors, over which you simply often have no influence at all. For example, what does the person I’m trying to impress like? If he likes tall blonds, I can’t change that I’m small and dark-haired.”

Alternatives things you can say to yourself include “It’s enough if my friends like me”, “I don’t like everyone either” or “I don’t have to be popular, it’s enough if people respect me”.

Your telephone provider doesn’t need to like you; it’s enough if you get what you need.

Trying to mind-read

man laptop meeting cafe coffee
Is your thinking rational or accurate? Probably not if you’re trying to read someone’s mind.

Sometimes it can be as little as a glance or an ambiguous comment — those who get caught up in attempting to mind-read end up interpreting others’ actions or remarks as being directed against themselves, which leads to a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

How to get out of the thinking trap

Is your thinking rational and accurate? Probably not if you’re trying to read someone’s mind.

Maybe there’s a completely different reason for the behavior you’ve picked up on.

For example, could it have something to do with the fact that the other person is stressed or under pressure? Is there a reason for his behavior that has nothing to do with you?

Counter-thoughts at times when you find yourself worrying about what someone else is thinking might include: “This behavior isn’t necessarily intended for me” or “It’s their issue; not mine”.

Self-victimizing

man orange t-shirt serious discussion argument glasses
If you can’t solve the problem alone, get help from a colleague, your manager or talk to HR.

Do you often find yourself saying: “Everyone else is to blame, not me”?

People who think like that are usually over-simplifying, according to Overdick.

“On the one hand it’s easy to cede responsibility; on the other hand — and this is the big disadvantage of this thinking trap — you end up losing sight of your own potential to influence a situation, as well as opportunities to develop yourself.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

Question the extent to which you’ve contributed to a situation.

Do you always get handed pointless, thankless tasks at work?

Well, had you ever stopped to think that, perhaps, you failed to mention that these tasks are a waste of time?

Have you ever asked to do something else? If not, then why aren’t you thinking about what you can do to change the situation?

If you can’t solve the problem alone, you can also get help — for example from a colleague, by talking to your manager or, in extreme cases, by talking to HR.

Remember to say to yourself “There’s always something I can do” or to ask yourself “How can I do something to change this?” before you start pointing fingers.

Kidding yourself when it comes to over-indulgence

whole 30 binge
Telling yourself the things that distract you from your goals are actually good for you is obviously an ineffective approach.

Sometimes it’s okay to indulge a little, but it can become problematic when you delude yourself into thinking something that isn’t all that good for you is somehow beneficial: it can prevent you from achieving your goals in the longterm.

“It’s good not to focus on goals and achievements constantly but, in the long run, continually indulging and focusing on things that distract you from what matters are actually good for you is obviously an ineffective approach,” said the psychologist.

“Unfortunately, as humans, we function in such a way that we want short term gratification but aren’t always prepared for the long term negative consequences. Take gambling addiction or food binges as an example: we’re looking for quick and immediate pleasure and, at the time, prefer to ignore the long-term negative consequences, like financial loss and weight gain.”

How to get out of the thinking trap

“I think the same logic can be applied here as for those who victimize themselves — you just need a bit of a kick up the behind,” said Overdick.

In general, it’s good to question yourself, to be critical, and to ask again and again what longterm drawbacks you may experience by seeking short term enjoyment. In that way, you can stop to consider what to do about it.

“It’s better to intervene with yourself as soon as possible.”

Useful affirmations such as “I can stand up for my own goals” may help you to stop and consider what needs to be done.

Practical tips to avoid thinking traps

happy hour friends
You can challenge your own thinking traps by finding a “sparring partner” to support you in changing your behavior, using their own experience and knowledge.

Thinking traps wouldn’t be so awful if we were able to recognize them and nip them in the bud immediately. Unfortunately, it’s usually only the case that we recognize the symptoms once they’re really getting out of hand.

One thing you can do to challenge your own thinking traps is to look for a “sparring partner”, which is basically someone who supports you using their own experience and knowledge — particularly any knowledge and experience that’s relevant to you.

“This can be anyone from a family member or partner to a good friend or colleague, and it can also be a coach or a therapist,” said Overdick, “as long as it isn’t someone who’ll be easily satisfied with your first answer.”

Another method is to write “counter-thoughts” on a small card and place them somewhere where you’ll look often during the day. It could be your wallet, your desk, or the front door — or you can also use a symbolic object.

“In psychology, we refer to these objects as ‘anchors’ — a new way of thinking ‘anchored’ into a postcard, a shell from a nice beach or a pretty piece of jewelry. The object itself is less important — it’s more important that you put it in a place where it will always actively remind you to think of the alternative.”

This is a great technique for those thoughts that resurface when you least expect them to, according to Overdick, “because they hit you even harder”.

It’s especially important that you’re reminded over and over again: you don’t adopt a new way of thinking overnight simply by flipping a switch. It takes a lot of repetition to get rid of your old thinking patterns.

“It’s like learning to play the piano — it’s not enough just to understand how a piece works; you need to consolidate what you learn through repetition and practice.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Scared of social un-distancing? Many of us still need time to ‘thaw.’

woman mask
A woman wearing a face covering walks past a shop in Cardiff, Wales on October 18, 2020.

  • Vaccines were supposed to be our ticket to normalcy after a grueling year of isolation.
  • But I, among others, have found myself afraid to return to even CDC-approved activities.
  • We’ve been frozen in place by trauma. Now we need time to thaw.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For months, all I thought about was getting a vaccine. I refreshed pharmacy websites thousands of times, annoying my family members with my nightly phone-tapping on the couch. Just let it go, they begged. You’ll get one when you get one.

I’ll admit I was obsessed. Vaccines were supposed to be the end of a long, traumatic journey – one marked by hospital visits, panicked trips to the grocery store, and total physical isolation from nearly every person in my life.

I fled New York City for my mother’s house in California a year ago in order to deal with long-lasting symptoms of a COVID-19 infection I’d gotten in March 2020. I’d hoped the sunshine and proximity to family would help, though I had also grown afraid of any dense, crowded environment like the one that had gotten me sick.

When my vaccine appointment finally arrived, I sat like a schoolkid in the blue Walgreens chair, my arm tingling from a fresh jab, but I felt oddly numb. I’d expected to be euphoric – things were finally about to return to normal!

I hadn’t considered that it would take time to process what just happened, to accept that the threat of the virus had abated.

When a zebra is hunted by a lion, it has three options: attack (fight), run away (flight), or play dead (freeze). If that third method is successful, the lion won’t eat the zebra – but the zebra won’t necessarily spring from the ground once the predator is gone, either.

Instead, its autonomic nervous system – the brain’s control center that regulates bodily functions – is still reeling from its brush with death. So it stays frozen for longer than may seem necessary. It happens in other animals, too: A 2017 study found that rats continued to freeze for long periods of time even after researchers stopped exposing them to a stressor (in that case, a mild electric shock).

I had fought COVID-19, fled to a safer locale, and gotten my vaccine. But I was still frozen.

It will still take quite some time, I now realize, for me to thaw.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling of paralysis. Many people I’ve spoken to say that even after getting vaccinated, they still feel afraid to social un-distance – to give hugs or remove their masks around other vaccinated folks, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those activities are safe for vaccinated people. Dining indoors might as well be skydiving without a parachute.

“We’ve been in almost a constant state of arousal for a year,” Eva Ritmo, a psychiatrist in Miami Beach, told me. “It’s been so trying on our nervous systems, watching the news, watching people die, being in such a fear-based state. A part of it is that we’re just so traumatized from all that arousal that we’re sort of stuck.”

Our bodies don’t feel safe yet

Social Distancing
People in masks practice social distancing in line.

The fear of reentering society has an official name: COVID anxiety syndrome. People who experience it have trained themselves to stay alert to possible threats, including contact with others, according to Dr. Emma Seppala, science director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University.

Seppala told me she’s seen a similar levels of hypervigilance among people with military training.

“I know many veterans who still locate exits whenever they enter a building, or are always keen observers of their environments for signs of danger,” she said. “We can expect that people will remain anxious and in a hypervigilant way for quite some time.”

Letting go of masks and social distancing requires believing that we’re safe – a trust fall that’s hard to perform when the threat of the virus still lingers. It’s almost like rushing back into a car after you’ve been in an accident, Ritmo said.

“We’ve been told that going out is dangerous. We were told that hugging somebody was dangerous. We were told that being inside with somebody was dangerous,” she said. “You don’t just erase that message when you’ve been hearing it for a year. That messaging is now imprinted in our brain.”

Many Americans are also still wary of government health recommendations, particularly after the CDC first advised people not to wear masks at the start of the pandemic. Some now see the agency as politicized. Breakthrough infections following vaccinations have offered even more reason to stay on guard.

“I don’t think it’s crystal clear what is exactly safe and what we should be doing,” Ritmo said. “That’s going to trigger our arousal and then we’re going to have that fight, flight, or freeze again.”

But we can train ourselves to recover

Meditation
A person meditates on the beach.

Before getting up off the ground, a zebra that escapes a predator will tremble in place. It’s a recovery mechanism: The animal’s parasympathetic nervous system, or resting response, is quite literally shaking off the trauma to feel relaxed.

For humans, it’s not so simple.

“Most of us have not learned how to return to that state of calm and restoration,” Seppala said. “In fact, we often keep stressing about the event for days or years.”

To recover from COVID-related trauma, Ritmo said, it helps to think about areas in which you’ve grown during the pandemic, then try to incorporate those lessons into your life moving forward. Maybe you’ve found a new hobby or rekindled connections on Zoom.

Research has shown that around half of people who have experienced trauma can later see positive psychological changes as a result, such as a greater appreciation for life or enhanced creativity – a concept known as post-traumatic growth.

If you’re struggling to get there, Seppala said, deep breathing is a good place to start.

“When you inhale, your heart rate increases. When you exhale, it slows down,” she said. “Taking just a few minutes to close your eyes and lengthen your exhales – make them twice as long as your inhales – will help you calm down in minutes. Regular meditation, yoga, nature exposure, exercise all helps, too.”

But one thing you can’t do, Seppala added, is talk yourself out of stress.

“Think about how helpful it is when a friend or manager tells you to ‘just relax’ before you have to deal with a difficult client,” she said. “That’s not only unhelpful – it’s often downright irritating.”

Telling myself that a vaccine was a ticket to normalcy, it turned out, created unnecessary pressure.

There’s no set timeline for how long the thaw is supposed to take. For some, it may last much longer than others. But at some point, I and those around me will get up from the ground – hopefully together, in person.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The pandemic helped some millennials finally grow up

millennial
Economic forces have made adulthood seem long out of reach for many millennials.

  • For some millennials, a sense of adulthood has become more attainable during the pandemic.
  • Economic forces have long kept millennials from doing the things that used to define growing up.
  • Some took on more responsibilities in 2020, from buying houses to nesting to dealing with adult-sized stress.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It wasn’t until the pandemic that I started making my bed every day.

It seemed like a counterintuitive act before 2020. My bed was trapped by three walls in the tiny bedroom of my rented apartment, which meant I had to climb onto it to smooth out the sheets and duvet, creating as many new wrinkles as I erased. It was too much of a hassle in a world where getting ready for and commuting to work was still a thing. And what was the point, anyway, when I would just climb back into it at the end of the day?

But when my bedroom turned into my office and all my meetings moved to Zoom, I couldn’t bear the sight of unprofessional disarray, one more stressful stimulus that would crowd my already cluttered brain.

It was a new beginning.

I also created a Sunday cleaning schedule, traded in box mac-n-cheese for chicken marsala recipes, and began purging my stuff in hopes of a more minimalist space.

“We’re all thrown out of our normal way of doing things,” psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, who coined the term “emerging adulthood,” told me. He explained that some people could benefit from the creation of a routine that helps them feel that not everything is in chaos.

My effort to exert some semblance of control in an unraveling world also elicited, I came to realize, my first real taste of feeling like an “adult.”

Millennials’ struggles with “adulting” have been long documented, but their journey into adulthood has been a challenging one thanks to a relentless affordability crisis – a macroeconomic trend more compelling than one person’s laziness when it comes to bed-making. (Or maybe not – exhaustion with such domestic tasks is at least partially symptomatic of burnout, another issue afflicting the millennial generation).

The definition for adulthood is subjective, especially for such a diverse group that spans the ages of 25 to 40. But the pandemic has, ironically, brought the traditional view of adulthood – think independence and responsibility – within sight for some millennials, particularly the smaller cohort on the wealthier side of the millennial wealth gap.

Many have taken the next step in their living situation, whether as first-time homeowners or venturing into living on their own. Like me, some have turned to “nesting” activities like organizing and cooking for the first time. And most are grappling with adult-level stress that ages them both mentally and physically.

The pandemic created a new world and a new economy, and maybe also a newly “adult” generation.

Suburban and solo living scream independence

Some millennials who weren’t hit by job losses or salary cuts in 2020 were able to play catch-up by tucking away disposable income during the pandemic.

For this group of well-off millennials, adulthood has become more attainable, said Clare Mehta, an associate professor of psychology at Emmanuel College who has been studying established adults ages 30 to 45 during the pandemic. “If you have a partner and you’re thinking about having a family, now there’s a real impetus to move out of the city,” she told Insider.

Many have fled big cities for the suburbs, as historically low interest rates and the option to work remotely made more types of homes viable for the generation. Mehta cited one 30-something married father in her study who had previously told her he wouldn’t feel like an adult until he owned property – he just bought his first house.

House for sale, Texas
The pandemic pushed homeownership within reach of some millennials.

Millennials led all generations in homebuying last year, according to Apartment List’s Homeownership report, accelerating a five-year trend in millennial homeownership rates rising the fastest. And 30% of millennials said in a recent survey by Clever Real Estate that the pandemic pushed them to house-hunting earlier than planned.

US Census Data found that homeownership rates increased by 4 percentage points from the second quarters of 2019 to 2020, and younger generations saw the greatest the leaps. Those under age 35 saw a 4.2 percentage point increase and those ages 35 to 44 saw a 4.9 percentage point increase, compared to older age groups who all hovered around an increase of 2 percentage points.

Even for urban renters, those who stayed in cities are embarking on solo living for the first time amid rent drops, finding new lifestyles and a new sense of independence. These urban and suburban upgrades are both a sign of financial independence, which many young adults deem a marker of true adulthood.

The turn to nesting

The onset of social distancing sidelined the experience economy and birthed the solitary leisure economy, in which Americans spent more time entertaining themselves, well, alone. Among other things, it has pushed many Americans into a nesting mindset.

That would explain my sudden desire to organize and clean, and I may be solitary in doing this, but I’m not alone. A life relegated indoors and Netflix organizing shows like “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and “The Home Edit” have provided a foundation for a decluttering boom in America.

“People are feeling their spaces right now,” Gretchen Rubin, author of “Outer Order, Inner Calm” told Jura Koncius of The Washington Post. “Some people feel like nesting and just want to paint everything. Others feel claustrophobic. Many have figured out they need more elbow room.”

For many millennials, such nesting activities are new. Consider cooking. Many Americans began cooking at home more as restaurants temporarily shuttered, but it was the first time doing so for many millennials, Krishnakumar Davey, president of strategic analytics at IRI, told CNBC.

millennial cooking
Some millennials turned to nesting activities like cooking for the first time in quarantine.

Millennials also happen to be leading the way in some nesting activities, such as home improvement projects. More than 80% of millennials tackled a home renovation during the pandemic, according to a OnePoll survey, more than any other generation. Spending on home improvement overall increased by 7% in the latter half of 2020 and early 2021, per a February Bank of America note.

Many of these DIY renovators are young females trading in travel and dining for at-home experiences, The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull wrote on the rise of nesting among shut-in Americans back in November. These renovations have been both a coping mechanism for the unemployed, a means to control one’s space, and a way to wile away quarantine days.

As Mull wrote, “What else is there to do?”

The toll of stress

There’s also the emotional burden of dealing with an unprecedented crisis. Research shows that abnormally stressful events not only physically age your brain, but make emerging adults feel at least a year older.

Mental health was generally worse for younger generations pre-pandemic, when diagnoses for major depression in the US were rising at a faster rate for millennials and teens than for any other age group. Since 2013, millennials have seen a 47% increase in major-depression diagnoses. A more recent study by Blue Cross Blue Shield finds that the pandemic has further accelerated the decline of millennial health, including a 12% increase in major depression.

Given the wide age range of millennials, the emotional burden is coming in different forms. For millennials living alone, Mehta said, the stress comes in having to manage their own isolation. Meanwhile, women in their 30s are dealing with increased stress as they juggle working from with unusual childcare arrangements.

millennials coronavirus parents.JPG
The pandemic showed millennials their parents are aging.

Millennials responsible for others and the emotional wellbeing of their family “have a huge emotional burden, trying to keep everything and everyone together,” Mehta said.

The pandemic also showed many millennials how old their parents are. They’ve had to reckon with the fact that their parents are aging and could be considered at-risk individuals, some having adopted the role of adult themselves in an attempt to convince their parents to take precautions early on in the pandemic.

A little bit older

Now, this isn’t all to say millennials are an immature bunch, unable to get their act together until a world crisis hits. Some millennials had achieved typical adult milestones like buying a house and having kids pre-pandemic, and those who didn’t may have felt like adults regardless.

And not every millennial now feels more adult-like. The pandemic is the latest in a series of economic challenges millennials have faced. Arnett said it has really scrambled and delayed things for the younger cohort, the most likely to have lost their jobs. A halted career and no income stream, which makes goals like homebuying seem out of reach, likely pushed any sense of adulthood further away for those affected.

There’s also the 52% of young adults who were quarantining with their parents as of July, which could lead to feelings of regression. “Most people expect to be able to stay on their own,” Arnett said. “They get used to paying their own bills and doing their own laundry and buying their own groceries. And then to come home, it feels like a defeat.”

Much like the growing millennial wealth gap, the pandemic may therefore be exacerbating a millennial adulthood gap, as some move into the trappings of adulthood with all its responsibilities and stresses, and others stand still in extended adolescence or even move backwards. It’s another manifestation of the K-shaped recovery, which has benefited those with means and hurt nearly everyone else.

And, when it comes to nesting, a married woman with kids probably feels a lot differently about picking up chores at home than a single woman like me does, considering it’s setting back gains in gender equality.

Because the pandemic is ongoing, it’s too soon to exactly determine its long-term effects on millennials. But there’s something to be said about the strides made and burdens faced during the pandemic for a generation in the precarious stage that straddles emerging and established adulthood.

Now that the US is readying for a booming “roaring 20s” economy, some millennials are set to come out of the pandemic a little bit older and wiser, both literally and metaphorically.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A former monk shares a simple mind trick to help you combat negative thoughts and feel calmer in times of stress

Cory Muscara
Cory Muscara.

  • Cory Muscara is a mindfulness teacher, a frequent guest of the “Ten Percent Happier Podcast” with Dan Harris, a professor, and an ordained Buddhist monk.
  • The following is an excerpt from his book, “Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World.”
  • In it, he describes a workshop where he encouraged hundreds of Fortune 100 executives to sit silently and listen to a bell ring three times. This exercise is meant to help people focus on the present moment.
  • Muscara argues that it’s important to be intentional about our thoughts and where we direct our attention, as this can help us combat worries, fears, and negative thinking.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Within the first 10 minutes of any workshop, I do an exercise to help people connect with the power of focus. I ring a bell and ask the audience to pay attention to the sound, which has a long, deep resonance.

Recently, I was running a workshop for a big Fortune 100 company. There were over 200 executives in the room, all suffering withdrawal from being off of their phones for the last three minutes, and I was going to put them through my meditation exercise whether they wanted to do it or not.

The instructions were simple: I’ll ring the bells three times. If you’d like to close your eyes, you may. All you need to do is bring your full attention to the sound of the bell until it dissolves back into silence.

Everyone looked around at each other like I had just asked them to get naked and hold hands.

“Don’t worry, it will be easy,” I assured them. “And it will only take about a minute.”

They adjusted their posture, as if reviewing the catalog in their mind for how you’re supposed to sit when you do weird hippie stuff like this. Some closed their eyes; some kept them open.

I rang the bells once, and the sound ran for about 15 seconds.

The room got quieter.

I rang the bells again, and everyone continued to listen for the sound to soften into silence.

More people now had their eyes closed. I could feel something shifting.

I rang the bells a third time, letting the sound run its 15 seconds and watched as the group settled into it.

After the last bell faded into silence, you could hear a pin drop. The room was still. And it appeared that everyone had their eyes closed.

In a gentle tone of voice, I invited them to open their eyes again.

They stayed quiet.

“So … how was that?” I asked.

“I liked the quiet,” one woman said. “I think that’s a new experience for all of us … at least at work. I didn’t want it to end.”

“Yeah,” I responded. “So, you get a taste for just how much we’re consumed by the noise of our lives.”

“What else did people notice?” I asked.

A man raised his hand. “In the silence between the bells, I noticed a lot of other sounds in the room, especially the ticking of the clock. I was surprised I was able to hear that.”

“Very cool,” I said. “So, even though we raised awareness around one thing, in this case the bells, it enhanced our awareness of other, more subtle things.”

Anything else?

There was a pause.

Eventually, one last woman chimed in. “I just feel so calm. I’m usually caught in my thoughts and worries, and when I was listening to the bells, most of that fell away.”

The whole room seemed to nod in agreement.

I’ve done this exercise more than 500 times, and there are usually common themes in people’s responses, but the one response that always comes up is an increased sense of calm.

It could be that the bells are very pleasant to listen to, or that the room is quiet, or that they’re not immersed in emails – but it seems that when we make the intention to pay deeper attention to one thing (in this case, the bells), we’re less prone to falling into the dominating stream of thoughts and stimuli that typically consume our attention and create extra agitation.

StopMissingYourLife_HC
“Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World.”

You know those thoughts, right? The judgments, the worries, the rumination, the thoughts about the future and the past. Not only do they create agitation and stress, these pesky little critters become the filter through which we experience our life.

Some skeptics might think that I’m suggesting we clear our minds of thoughts, never think about the future or the past, and just focus on what is happening right now, all the time, in every moment.

Eh, not quite. If that were the case – or if it was even possible – I’m not sure how we would get anything done. We should spend time thinking about the future – planning our goals and scheduling out our day – and time reflecting on our past – what we need to improve and what went well that we want to remember. Both of those domains, the future and the past, heavily inform how we live our life in the present moment.

However, in my own life, I’ve noticed that my mind can go into the future and the past without me asking it to. And it’s not always helpful. It often leads to extra stress, extra worry, and extra judgment about things that have very little to do with the reality of what is happening right now.

So, this is not about clearing thoughts from our mind; rather, it’s about developing an awareness of what is going on in our minds – Where does our attention go, moment to moment? What does our mind reflect on when we’re not aware of it? – and then being more intentional about where and how we direct our attention.

A thought can be a powerful and positive force in our lives, leading to creativity, planning, and problem solving; a thought can also be meaningless neurotic chatter. We want the ability to leverage the former and not be swept away by the latter.

But, Cory, I don’t want to constantly monitor myself. I want to be free and spontaneous!

The kind of freedom I’m talking about is not being trapped in the unconscious pattern of reactivity. It’s about seeing what our usual impulse is in the moment and then being able to choose to follow it or respond differently.

I believe this sentiment is best captured in this quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth, freedom, and happiness.”

The ability to respond in that space between something happening and our response to it is where we find freedom. It’s where we can show ourselves a little more compassion when we’re beating ourselves up. It’s where we can decide to be a little less impulsive when we’re about to say (or text) something we shouldn’t. And when it comes right down to it, it’s where we start to make meaningful changes in our life.

Excerpted from the book “Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World” by Cory Muscara. Copyright (c) Cory Muscara by Da Capo Lifelong Books. Reprinted with permission of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

This article was first published by Business Insider in December 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Holiday music may be bad for your mental health, according to science

mariah carey santa holiday music
Santa and Mariah Carey.

  • Incessant repetition of holiday music can have a psychological impact.
  • At first, holiday music can be uplifting, but after a certain period of time, it can cause boredom — and even distress.
  • It can remind listeners of the other stressors of the holiday season, like finances and family.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The sights and sounds of the holidays are here – and they’re completely inescapable. No matter where you go, it seems like the same classic songs are played on repeat. 

This perception is spot on: Spotify reports that listening spikes during the last two months of the year. Michael Bublé’s “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” top the list of most streamed tunes

But the incessant repetition can have a psychological impact. There’s a U-shaped relationship between how often we hear a song and how much we like it, what’s known as the mere exposure effect

At first, holiday music may spark nostalgia and get you in the holiday spirit. But hearing “Jingle Bells” for the millionth time can lead to annoyance, boredom, and even distress, researchers say.

That’s because the brain becomes oversaturated, triggering a negative response. If you’re already worried about moneywork, or seeing family during the holidays, the constant inundation of cheerful tunes may reinforce your stress instead of relieving it. 

It can also be downright distracting, affecting employee productivity and irritating consumers. In fact, a 2011 Consumer Reports survey found that 23% of Americans dread holiday music.

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair says Christmas music can be mentally draining:

“People working in the shops [have to tune out] Christmas music, because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else… You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”

How can you strike the right balance of good cheer that doesn’t drive you crazy?

Switch up your music so people’s brains don’t get bored. Playing the same Christmas songs all season long produces cognitive fatigue. Practice good sound management by varying your playlists and keeping the volume in check.

Studies also show that wintry scents like pine and cinnamon help conjure happy emotions, so recruit other senses when celebrating. 

If all else fails, a set of ear plugs makes a nice stocking stuffer.

This Inc story was originally published on Business Insider December 24, 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider