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Monday, March 26, 2012

The Power of Laughter: Gilda Radner's Legacy Lives On

Gilda Radner's 1st Appearance on SNL
Gilda Radner (1946 -1989)
Thought for the day: The power of laughter has been proven to be therapeutic to our mental & physical health. Gilda Radner used laughter well & still inspires us. Here's some of what she said about cancer: "Here it is: I had a cyst removed from an ovary & lost ten pounds & kept it off. So tell everyone: chew a lot of gum & have major surgery. " "I grew up in front of television, I guess I’ll grow old inside one." "My life had made me funny, & cancer wasn't going to change that. " Has laughter helped you overcome tough times? Please share a story that may help someone else struggling with illness or a loss.

On Thursday, I will be taking part in a day long event. The morning will begin with a panel that I will be co-moderating with Stacey Battat, editor of a series of inspirational books called, Thin Threads. Our topic is officially Wellness After Grief or Illness, not the easiest topic to address at 10 AM. Stacy & I agreed to focus on resilience. 

Gene Wilder
The evening will include a tribute to Gene Wilder, one of our greatest comediennes. When I spoke with Stacy about the event, we both agreed that adding humor would help the panel present an uplifting & inspirational discussion of a tough topic. Gilda Radner's valiant battle with ovarian cancer leading to Gilda's Club seemed to exemplify how one woman fought back with humor. She outlived her prognosis & left a legacy that lives on. In one of the above quotes she said she would grow old inside a television. She was wrong, she remains young, vibrant & inspirational in videos like her 1st appearance on SNL. She is also still a role model for anyone coping with a serious illness.

I plan to honor Gilda in the morning & look forward to honoring & meeting Gene Wilder in the evening, celebrating his life & accomplishments. I am sure Gilda would be proud of his accomplishments & of how Gilda's Club continues to offer, hope, support & humor to families faced with cancer worldwide.

If you live in the NY, NJ or CT area, there is still time to RSVP for the free (but space is limited) workshops & open house & the gala evening event ($100 donation). For a schedule of the daytime events & to RSVP for either the workshops or the evening gala: For the Stamford Innovation Center's open house from 4 -6 please  RSVP here.

If you do come, please introduce yourself. I'd love to meet you.

What jokes have helped you through a tough time? I'd love to hear your stories.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What Do You Get When You Combine Corporate Sponsors, NPOs, Academics, & Entrepreneurs?

Thought for today: It is amazing where dreams can lead if you allow yourself to keep an open mind to the opportunities that begin to open up as you move towards your dreams. Have you ever started moving towards a dream & found yourself involved in even even greater things than you imagined? 

When we would go on vacation with my father we never made hotel reservations. He loved to drive & have the freedom to adjust the trip so that he could stop to make side trips to unexpected destinations. This lead to something I'd call the psychology of unexpected discoveries. On one trip we drove across 4 of the western provinces of Canada. My father's lack of clear plans, at times lead to driving for hours until we found a motel room. On this trip, he assumed that there would be no problem finding a motel in Calgary, Alberta, since is was a large city. We arrived in Calgary around 9 PM. By 10 PM, with four tired kids & an exhausted driver he knew he was wrong. At a gas station he asked someone what was happening? It turned out that we had stumbled into town in the middle of the Calgary Stampede, the world's largest rodeo! There were no rooms at any hotel or motel in the city. Local residents had rented their homes months before the event & left town for the week. Somehow, my father convinced someone to let him rent a room in their home for the night. We slept on the floor & on couches. The next day we went to the rodeo & had one of those lifetime experiences you never forget. 

When you dream, it's important to leave room for these kinds of treasures, which happen even when you have mapped out your DPS (Dream Positioning System). Don't worry, there is always room for "recalculating" & your DPS will go on automatic pilot & take you to new adventures. Here's one of mine that just happened. These kinds of unexpected encounters leading to even larger dreams seem to keep happening since I began to work on my book. I'd love to hear how working towards a dream has led to even better things than you first imagined.

Last night, around midnight, I received an e-mail from Donnetta Campbell about the upcoming event I have been helping to organize & will be participating in next Thursday in Stamford, CT. My involvement began as part of my efforts to publicize my book & the NPOs involved in my book. Since then it has pulled me into far more powerful opportunities. At first glace the event, Wings of Change (, may appear to be just another benefit for a good cause. It is for a good cause, but it is more. The main benefactor is the Yerwood Center, an after school program in Stamford. The Yerwood Center is transforming Saks Fifth Avenue for a magical evening event 6-10 pm filled with Fashion, Art, Music, Dining, Auction & Dancing! There will be a tribute to Gene Wilder & other celebrity appearances (Joe Franklin, Kelly LeBrock). 

However, this event is much more. It is the culmination of cooperation between multiple nonprofit organizations, authors & visionaries on a mission to change the world. The day long event begins with a series of talks sponsored by corporations like GE, UBS, Barnes & Noble & Saks 5th Avenue. Topics to be covered during the day include: Learning about Mother Theresa as a CEO (Ruma Bose), Empowerment & Diversity (Gina Otto), The Value of a Woman (Joy Rose, Founder The Museum of Motherhood & Mamapollosa), Your Kids Diversity & Bullying (Wayne Soares), Would My Child Tell? (Jill Starishevsky), Wellness After Grief & Illness, & Raising Digital Kids (Digital Mom) to name a few.

In last night's e-mail an even larger picture emerged. I knew that there were plans for Donnetta Campbell's company, The Barnyard Group, to open office space in the Stamford Innovation Center. There will be an open house on Thursday from 4 to 6 PM to celebrate the new space & the new initiatives. What I did not know was the full scope of what will be happening in the Stamford Innovation Center.  

Here's what I learned about this part of the project:
  "(Stamford innovation Center is) a COMMUNITY… a team of individuals & organizations who are dedicated to helping our entrepreneurs succeed. To achieve this mission we have partnered with the City of Stamford, the State of Connecticut, & committed Corporate Sponsors. Together we will catalyze & grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem, engage the entire community, & build the critical mass needed for entrepreneurship to thrive.
  It is all about the relationships & network…
Investors (VC Firms, Angels, State Funds, Corporate Innovation Teams, Debt/Loan Providers…)
Customers (Corporate & Public Sector Customers, Gatekeepers to the Corporate Community…)
Experts (Educators, Experienced Entrepreneurs/Mentors, Industry Associations & Experts…)
Talent  (Exceptional students and a highly skilled workforce)
Service Providers (Attorneys, Accountants, Bankers, PR, Marketing, Web Design, Consultants…)"

What do you get when you combine corporate sponsors, NPOs, academics & entrepreneurs? You get the psychology of unexpected discoveries. You get innovation, opportunities, new ways to solve problems & change the world. I am excited to be part of this exciting development. I know it will lead to new dreams & ways of accomplishing dreams in multiple realms of business, nonprofit, & social entrepreneur endeavors. You can still become part of this exciting journey. Join me & other "wake up" dreamers to an opportunity to meet & learn from visionaries developing new ways to collaborate for social change! If you live in the NY, NJ or CT area, there is still time to RSVP for the free (but space is limited) workshops & open house & the gala evening event ($100 donation). For a schedule of the daytime events & to RSVP for either the workshops or the evening gala: For the Stamford Innovation Center's open house from 4 -6 please  RSVP here.

Please tell me know about your unexpected encounters on your way to your dreams. I'd love to hear about your adventures & discoveries on your dream journeys!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Is Your Life Living Up to Your Dreams? Would You Like a Free Consultation With A Psychologist?

Thought for the Day: Frustration can sometimes immobilize us & stop us from even thinking about our dreams. However, sometimes frustration can help people find their dreams. If you are frustrated, you are not alone. Is your life living up to your dreams? If not, why not? I'd like to offer my assistance. Feel free to write here or e-mail me your questions. Share your experiences about what is frustrating you & keeping you from living your dreams. I will respond to all your questions in subsequent posts or individually.

We all get frustrated daily, but I'm wondering what are the biggest issues confronting you at this time? Work conflicts seem to be at the top of many of my clients' lists. Many people are feeling stuck in work situations & afraid to make a move during a recession. They feel they have no options other than the status quo. Some people have outlived multiple layoffs, but find themselves doing more work with less staff. People are tolerating unpleasant conflicts with their managers since they are afraid to look for alternative jobs. Everyone knows that many companies are not hiring. Since the last person hired is often 1st one laid off many people don't even look for a new job, even when they are miserable & being treated poorly. Problems at work often lead to tension at home, marital conflicts, lack of sleep & reduced energy. Tension at home leads to conflict with spouses & children. This often leads to social isolation & depression. In this way the frustration cycle often mushrooms & expands to all aspects of life. Are you stuck in this kind of cycle?

I don't know what things are bothering you, but would like to help you find ways to reduce your level of frustration & break this viscous cycle. To get out of the cycle there are two steps that are prerequisites to finding solutions. First, you must admit to yourself that you are frustrated & stuck. Then you need to ask for help. So frustration can be the catalyst to finding a better life.

I hope you will take both of the steps today. First ask yourself, what things are frustrating you? What's holding you back now? Are there things you would like some help with? If so, feel free to write to me. You can post your question here. If you would prefer to e-mail me so that your concerns remain confidential, my e-mail is I will e-mail you back before I post anything online, to make sure I have disguised your personal details. I look forward to helping you use your frustration to help you make the changes that will help you start moving towards your dreams.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Smile! It's Free Therapy!

Thought for the Day: A hearty laugh lengthens your life. 
                                                                              SWEDISH PROVERB
 Has a stranger's smile or comment ever made your day? I'd love to hear about it.

I remember coming out of a film in NYC a few years ago. I smiled at a young woman. She came over & told me that I had a beautiful smile. She thanked me for smiling. She had been having a rough day & my smile helped her. We spoke for a few minutes. She was new to the country from Latin America & had been feeling a bit homesick. I wished her well & thanked her for her compliment. It made me feel good that I was able to help someone just by smiling.

A new client who recently moved to Connecticut from the south complained about how hard it is for her to adjust to living in New England. She finds that no one smiles back when she smiles at them.

Having grown up in Texas I know that different parts of the country have different norms when it comes to interacting with strangers. On my first visit back to the US after living abroad, I went to Austin with my brothers. We were walking down the street & my brother, Mike, who was living in Austin at the time, said hello to someone who passed by. I asked my brother if he knew them. He told me he did not, but that everyone says hello in Texas.

Having lived in New England now for many years, I know that the client's complaint was based on reality. We have all been taught, growing up, not to talk to strangers. In a world where negative news makes headlines, the danger of strangers is a necessary part of parenting our children. However, as adults hopefully, we can learn who to trust & befriend. Smiling or saying good morning does not need to be avoided. I encouraged my client to keep smiling & looking for opportunities to speak with people. Even in New England, it will happen. It just seems to take a little longer to get to know the norms of speaking to strangers. Research has shown that smiles do lead to having smiles returned so if you keep trying people will smile back. Sometimes this can lead to a conversation & a new friend or acquaintance. In this part of the country where the winter keeps people at home more, it also helps to join groups or take a class to start new friendships.

We know that laughter lengthens our lives. Research shows it acts like exercise strengthening our hearts. Seems to me it's a pretty easy workout! Smiles also feel like free therapy. So wherever you are, north, south, east or west, make someone's day a little better. Share a smile or a laugh & see how it feels. You may make someone's day & improve yours at the same time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Does Social Media Lead to Social Action or Inaction?

Does Social Media Lead To Social Action for Social Good?

Thought for the day: There is something wonderful & terrible about all the social media sites. On the one hand, you can interact with people you would never meet without these platforms. It is easy to learn about things without leaving your home. On the other hand, these sites can become addictive, time consuming & may lead to less real life interactions with people. When confronted with four options: 1) like, 2) share, 3) unlike, or 4) move on, or ignore what we see, are we choosing option 4) more often than any of the others. Why are people opting not to interact? Are we becoming voyeurs rather than action takers? Is our attention span becoming shorter & shorter? Do we need more & more negative, shocking photos & videos to get our attention? Is social media missing it's mark & making us more asocial or anti-social? We know that twitter has played an influential role in the Arab Spring movement, so social media can lead to action, but does it sometimes lead to inaction. What does it take to get you to like or share something on social media sites? What stops you from sharing or liking something?

As a psychologist, I tend to test my theories before I write about them. I find the psychology of social media fascinating. For the last few months I have been thinking about & developing ways to understand the psychology of using social media for social good. My most recent experiment came before I even had a theory or a plan to write about it. I was simply curious. I responded to a facebook post & decided to try it on both my personal & book facebook page, my google+ page (which, I really don't understand yet), & my 3 twitter handles. That means the message went out to over 8,000 people or pages. I was reluctant to place the post since it felt a bit like chain letters which I do not pass on, but my curiosity won.

Here's the post I put out on all the above sites: "...Pay attention! I'm running a test to see who's reading my posts. So, if you read this, leave me a one-word comment about your day—only one word, please. Then, copy this to your wall so I can leave a word for you. Don't just post a word & not copy—that's no fun."

My meager results in over 48 hours are: 18 replies, shares, & likes. In fairness, I get a lot more responses when I post more interesting content. I also sent out my test on a Saturday afternoon when people are busy, so it may not reflect how well it may have done on a weekday. It still appears on my facebook pages, but it is ancient history on twitter & google+. 

Are we simply overwhelmed with so many posts, tweets, blogs & newsletters flashing by in real time? Do we need disasters or "glitzy" gossip from stars to get our attention?  Are we becoming "couch potatoes" on the internet? How can we get people to really connect in meaningful ways? I hope that we will not become numb to calls for action similar to the passerby phenomenon that has occurred when people hear the sounds of a crime happening & ignore it.

I find that some sites are making a conscious effort to engage people about real issues. On Voices Against Brain Cancer's facebook page,, people post pictures & stories about their loved ones who are either fighting a battle against brain cancer or who have sadly lost the battle. They are raising awareness, supporting families dealing with the disease & supporting research programs to put an end to brain cancer. It is so powerful that I can only respond to posts a bit at a time, but I make an effort to do so. Stop Violence Against Women engages visitors to click to have their sponsors support various causes. You can click every day & support multiple causes there for free.

What sites you share, like & comment on & why? As I see it it is up to us, the users to put social responsibility & activism into social media.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is the American Dream Dying or Just Transforming?

     Thought for today: Life in this day & age is not without challenges. Much of the news we hear is depressing. The economy is struggling. Unemployment is high. College grads are returning home & living with their parents out of necessity. Teenage girls are posting on YouTube asking if they are ugly. Children were murdered in an attack by a classmate wielding a gun in Ohio. Under the circumstances, staying optimistic is challenging. If it is a prerequisite for making the future better, how can we hold on to our optimism? In light of all the negative news, is the American Dream dying or just transforming? More positive news exists, however, the media seems to focus on the negative, since it sells. We have the power to change that fact. Today, I will tell you about some of the organizations whose activities are helping to keep the American Dream alive & well. Like America, it is transforming with the times. Please share these stories that include the negative occurences but also report some promising solutions & progress in their messages. Show magazines & the media that you are interested in the positive news which will help keep the American Dream thriving.

I was thinking about this topic before I read an article ( by one of my new friends Denise Restauri. Then I viewed a clip about a new documentary, America the Beautiful ABC LA News YA day later, I saw another powerful documentary, Someday Melissa, about a young woman's battle with an eating disorder. After the screening, I listened to & spoke with members of a panel of experts, the film makers & the audience including women & men recovering from eating disorders, talk about their experiences & the progress being made in the field.

All three of the above were in conjunction with National Eating Disorder Awareness week, but somehow I see these as testaments to the changing face of the American Dream. The rise in violence, unemployment, & eating disorders, are symptoms of the times we are living in. When the going gets tough you must get tougher. When the dream is challenged, you must get more creative to dream it forward. Women & girls are fighting for their American Dreams of life liberty & the pursuit of happiness & are making progress. 

The American Dream is going through what seems like a coming of age right of passage. With each technological advance, democracy & freedom need to reassess how to insure those rights to all it's citizens. Facebook, twitter, & YouTube have given a worldwide platform which can be used for amazingly good causes or for evil ones. America & Americans are just beginning to learn how to use these new tools responsibly. As with all new things, it takes time to learn how to use them respectfully & responsibly. 

Denise's series of articles for Eating Disorder's Awareness week speak about the new trend among young girls to post videos on YouTube asking if they are ugly. It is heartbreaking to see such lovely young girls questioning their beauty & to learn that they are being taunted by cruel kids online. It raises huge concerns for parents, educators & therapists. Helping girls (& boys for that matter) to accept their unique bodies & appearances is challenging in an environment where magazines, TV & social media portray beauty as airbrushed thin models who often suffer from eating disorders to maintain dangerously unhealthy body weight. She also reports about a program called "Project HEAL, founded by two teenage girls who helped each other recover from anorexia nervosa, a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation & excessive weight loss." Programs like Project Heal are a sign of hope. Survivors are taking control of their eating, while helping other teens take control & fighting for their right to live the American Dream.

Given the explosion of new technologies, parents need to "friend" their children & their children's friends on Facebook & YouTube. They must pay attention to their children's & their children's friends posts & talk to them if anything seems worrisome.  Are they or a friend depressed, angry, threatening, self-deprecating, questioning whether they want to live? In the same way that you would want to meet the children they are associating with at school, you need to try to have some idea of who they are connecting with online. Start "friending" them on facebook when they are young, before they will be self-conscious about including you. Don't try to "be" their friend, just keep a watchful eye & speak with them personally, if you have concerns. If they want to take you off their "friend" list, remember, you are paying for internet access & can take it away. Make it a requirement for internet access. Remember you are the parent.

In addition, as parents there are things you can do to impact on the media. Television advertises food & alcohol ways to attain happiness, popularity & success. It took years for society to realize that advertizing of cigarettes was killing people & get the ads off the air. I believe we are on the verge of a grass roots revolution regarding how women's beauty is portrayed by the media. It is time to realize that advertizing is killing girls & women by promoting an unachievable unhealthy image. We, the consumers, can change the face of feminine beauty. To do so we must speak up & let the fashion, music, movie, dance & gymnastics industry know that we will not put up with the exclusion of girls as models or performers who do not fit the "twiggy" look. Beauty comes in all shapes & sizes. It starts from within & external beauty varies from culture to culture. Dove made a huge step in that direction with an ad campaign using older women showing the beauty of aging bodies & varying body types. We need to demand similar campaigns directed towards young girls & teenagers. More singers & actors need to break away from the pressure to have a thin "look" like Adele, who can be a role model for artists to accept their uniqueness.

The article & documentaries I mentioned give the hard truths about eating disorders. The statistics alone are staggering 30% of college students have eating disorders. The problems are starting with younger & younger children. 
  • It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women & one million men
  • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
  • Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
  • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder (Note: One in five Americans suffers from mental illnesses.)
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
  • A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years & only 30 – 40% ever fully recover
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.
  • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide & heart problems 
  • Only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment
  • About 80% of the girls/women who have accessed care for their eating disorders do not get the intensity of treatment they need to stay in recovery – they are often sent home weeks earlier than the recommended stay (All above statistics copied from:
Insurance companies are withholding funding for much needed longer inpatient treatment which can prevent the deaths of eating disordered patients. Families are struggling to help their children survive by locking up food & do not know what to do when insurance companies send their loved ones back home when their medical profile improves, but the therapy is incomplete. 

These facts are unsettling, however, there is also hope. Women, men, families of those suffering from or whose loved ones have died from eating disorders are fighting back. Movies like the one made made by a mother & a therapist, Someday Melissa ( & America the Beautiful (America the Beautiful ABC LA News are raising awareness. Grass roots groups are lobbying for "truth in advertizing" campaigns ( ) & mental health parity laws to force insurance companies to pay for much needed services. There are awareness programs in schools, universities, online & in the broader communities around the world. New research, as well as free treatment programs ( are happening. 

If you know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder, let them know help is out there. If you know someone who is being bullied or ridiculed for their appearance, help them by speaking up. Get involved. Let women's magazines know that you want them to stop promoting the "twiggy" look, that you want medical screening for eating disorders for models under the age of 18 & that you will unsubscribe from their magazines if they do not make changes. If enough people protest things will change. Get involved, you can help make a difference. Let's make someday that is promoting come as soon as possible. As we enter the brave new world of the internet & social media, let us all learn how to use them to promote good causes & fight harmful abuses of the system. The American Dream will survive if we keep it at the forefront of our dreams & actions to protect the lives, liberty & pursuit of happiness for all it's citizens.