Site Migration

I will be migrating the site from https://www.outofmymind.responsivellc.com to https://www.oomm.live over the weekend. Between Saturday and Sunday after I change the site url to lead to the new site, and before I do the last few steps in the migration, the site may be down for an extended period. I will be back. 

Please bookmark https://www.oomm.live and subscribe for updates. After the migration I will be trying out a new plugin that allows you to click through to subscribe to Patreon on any post that is still patron-locked when you want to read it. 

Executive Function Pt. 3: Forming Habits

Executive Function Pt. 3: Forming Habits

For part 1 go here and part 2 go here. Now we move on to forming habits. Toward the end of this article will be links to this information in other forms. 

The Parts of YOur Brain Involved in Forming habits

When you form a habit, you move information from your pre-frontal cortex to other parts of your brain, especially your basal ganglia. Your pre-frontal cortex is the newest part of your brain, genetically. It is also the most vulnerable to stress and other issues. Because of this, it is important, whenever we can, to implant our knowledge deeper in our brains.  One of the most important of these areas is the basal ganglia, Information in the basal ganglia are less susceptible to things that make prefrontal cortex information fragile. Essentially the prefrontal cortex passes off information to the basal ganglia where it gets stored more deeply.

I’m going to refer to your prefrontal cortex from now on as your “boss brain” and your basal ganglia as your “lizard brain” or “the roots of your brain”.  This is because using a metaphor helps you to learn information and store it better. When forming habits, your boss brain hands off information to the roots of your brain, where they are stored in such a way that eventually they become automatic. 

The basics of Forming a habit

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, consolidates a lot of the research on how we build habits. He defines three steps to forming a habit. First you create a trigger to remind you to do the thing. Then you do the thing repeatedly. Finally, you reward yourself for doing the thing. Sounds simple, right? Let’s break it down. 

creating a trigger

To create a trigger, you figure out something that works for you to remind you to do the thing. Some ideas include:

  • Setting an alarm
  • Having Cortana or Alexa remind you
  • Writing a note to yourself where you’ll see it (Refrigerator door? Bathroom mirror?)
  • Tell all the folks on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat that you’re going to do the thing. 
  • Putting the things you need to do the thing where they’ll remind you
  • Setting up the space where you’ll do the thing. 
  • Have a partner or supportive friend or colleague help you remember. 

Experiment, persist and evolve until you find a trigger that works for you. You’ve started forming a habit. 

Create a routine

Decide for yourself whether this is an everyday habit or more or less often. Often, you can figure this out from the task. For instance, exercise is typically an everyday habit, Paying bills and balancing your budget is typically a once or twice a week habit. Eating three healthy meals and two healthy snacks a day (for those with hypoglycemia) is going to be a five time a day habit. 

Use your trigger to remind you to do the thing. Set up your “bill paying station”. Put out your exercise clothes and have your water bottle ready for your morning exercise. Make a menu for your healthy eating and put it on your refrigerator door (and pack food for work). 

We used to believe that it takes 21 days to form a routine. Unfortunately, this isn’t actually true. It is based on the observations of a plastic surgeon by the name of Malcolm Maltz in the 1950s, but he only observed his own pattern, not a group of people. Phillipa Lally did a study in 2009 that found that it takes 66 days to form a habit, on average. Two months and a week or so. 

Tricks for creating a routine

So the next piece is to promise yourself and anyone else who is willing to help that you will spend at least two and a half months doing the thing. Sometimes this helps to “trick” our brains into thinking it’s easier, by “promising” an end date. 

If you find that you can’t consistently do the habit in the morning, try the evening. When Fridays don’t work, try Mondays. If you need to break the BIG habit into smaller bites, do that. For example, the Eat Five Healthy Meals thing might be broken down into making the menu, shopping for the food, preparing and storing it in easy to grab portions, and eating it.  Each of those habits might take 66 days to develop, or you might try some or all of them at once. It’s up to you. You’re forming your habit, not anyone else’s. 

Rewards for Forming Habits

I mean, a good habit is its own reward, right? Except that you and I both know that not everyone does well with intrinsic rewards (because you read part 2, right?) Some people (sometimes) just can’t be motivated by feeling good or liking having something done. Some folks, some times, need extrinisic (external) rewards. So let’s think up some extrinsic rewards for doing the thing you’re trying to turn into a habit, okay? (These should be done only after you have done the thing you’re turning into a habit). 

  • Video game time
  • A favorite beverage or snack (in keeping with your goal)
  • Buying something for a collection (yarn, model cars, books, music, etc.)
  • Time out with a favorite person
  • A nap
  • Reading time
  • Or anything else that rewards you and doesn’t get in the way of your goal. 
Forming Habits: A review
  • Executive function in the prefrontal cortex (boss brain) catches new information
  • Information is then passed to your basal ganglia (lizard brain or brain roots)
  • It goes from being something you struggle to remember to something that is easy to remember and do
  • Creating a new habit has three specific parts:
    • Forming a trigger
    • Developing a routine of doing the same thing over and over for at least 66 days
    • Creating a reward that works for you

More on Executive Function

You can find part one of this series, Executive Function Pt. 1: What is it? by clicking the link. Executive Function Pt. 3: Forming Habits is next, and it will lead you to the next in the series. To view all of the Executive Function videos as a playlist, go to Youtube (please like the videos, comment, and follow my channel to keep current). To listen to all of the Executive Function audio as a playlist, go to SoundCloud(again, please like the podcasts, comment, and follow my channel to keep current. 

Acknowledgments and Links

Thanks for dropping by for Executive Function part 3. 

Thank you to my family, friends, Patrons, and followers. A special shoutout (as always) to those who struggle every day and get up and keep going, every day. If you want to join my supportive and moderated mental health community, ask to join the Out Of My Mind Facebook Group. 

Please support my work by signing up to be a Patron for a dollar or more a month or through dropping a tip at PayPal. Some of the other places you can find my work are on YouTubeSoundCloud, and the Out Of My Mind website.

If you want to see my rants and ramblings about process and politics, you can find them at my personal Facebook, my Twitter, and my political Facebook page, Am I The Only One Dancing?.

You can go to its web page or Facebook page to find out more about my therapy practice, Responsive Mental Health Services, LLC.

Why I’m Doing This

Finally, as always, half of every dollar I make from videos, podcasts, and writing (through PayPal or Patreon) is donated to my best friend, Katherine Malone.  She has a deadly heart condition and needs a heart transplant, but must raise $20,000 for anti-rejection drugs before she can be placed on the transplant list. You can find out more here and here, and go here to donate directly to her GoFundMe. This will continue until Kathy’s heart is fully funded. After that, half up to $500 a month will continue to be donated to assist her in paying for her anti-rejection meds.

A final reminder:  You are each important and have both much to teach, and much to learn. I look forward to learning from and teaching you all.

 

[Purely Political]: Everything is Political

Everything is Political

My friend Kate Johnston has a friend that challenges her introductory college classes to find a subject that has no political implications. The idea made me grin. 

Therefore, I immediately stole the idea and asked my friends on Facebook to give me ideas for “difficult” subjects to link to politics. This video covers three of them: chocolate, dog toenail clippers, and yarn. 

The definition of “political” I’m working from comes from Merriam-Webster, definition 1B of the definitions it lists: 

“of, relating to, or concerned with the making as distinguished from the administration of governmental policy

In this sense, some government, at some level, has impacted the services you provide and receive, the goods you provide and receive, and the choices you make and have made for you. While you’re reading this, try to find exceptions to this rule. 

A Deeper Dive

I covered three topics in the Everything is Political video: 

  • chocolate
  • dog toe-nail clippers
  • yarn

Frankly, I didn’t need to go that deep. Off the top of my head, I could think of at least a half dozen ways,  that political policies affect those three subjects. I present you with those “off my head” analyses: 

Chocolate

Many countries regulate chocolate. It is regulated as to the amount of cocoa that must be present, how it can be processed, and how it is labeled. In addition, chocolate is largely produced by at least exploited labor. Actual slaves arguably produce some (much?) of the chocolate the west eats. Chocolate production reflects the entire history of colonialism, slavery, exploitation of brown and Black people largely for the benefit of white people. I’m sure with half a minute’s thought, you could think of other political implications of chocolate. For example, go look up Hershey’s WWII history.  I’m sure you can think of other examples. 

dog toe-nail clippers

Of all animals on earth, we love and interact with dogs most  Tens of thousands of years ago, the first Neandertal woman built a campfire and offered her scraps to a half-grown wolf pup. Ever since, domesticated dogs have worked and played beside us, slept in our beds, and were buried in our graves. In the last 200 years, humans have created more dog breeds than in the 20,000 years of domestication prior. 

As our lives have changed, so have our dogs’ lives. From homeowner associations (HOAs) to Federal governments, humans have passed laws to make humans safe from dogs and dogs safe from humans. Many dogs live most of their lives indoors, on soft carpeted floors. Because of this change in lifestyle we needed to develop a tool that keeps the toenails trimmed that nature used to care for. Because of capitalism, it wouldn’t do to use a tool designed for humans, so we have dog toe-nail clippers in a rainbow of colors and a slew of styles, all to pamper humanity’s oldest friend, all impacted by policies humans made to protect their animal companions. What other laws and regulations affect our relationships with dogs? 

Yarn

I cheated with this one, as I’m very familiar with the history of yarn. I’ve been an avid knitter for fifteen years now.  I’ve been reading knitting magazines and books that whole time. Humans make yarn from a variety of materials. We make it from animal matter (wool, silk, mohair, etc.) vegetable matter (linen and cotton and other fibers) and man-made stuff (acrylic and other blends). Laws govern how the animals from which fibers are shorn and gathered are treated. Laws decide how plants are grown and harvested and prepared. And laws decide how the ingredients of a blended yarn are defined. 

We use yarn in knitting and crochet and other crafts. These crafts have historically been social crafts conducted largely by women. Intelligent women knitters have used their crafts to change the world. Women in India knitted and crocheted blankets for elephants affected by global warming. Women around the world have knitted sweaters for birds rescued from oil spills. Most recently, In 2017, hand-knit “pussy hats” (so named because they had “cat ears” and knitters love a good pun) proliferated at rallies to protest the policies of Donald J. Trump. 

Can you think of other ways we regulate yarns and the crafts that depend on them?

A challenge

Everything is political. Name a service, a good, or a choice that humans can (or can’t) make that they think isn’t political. It probably is. Further, the conversation about this stimulates critical thinking, an important life skill.  Thank you for watching and reading and listening. And thank you for thinking. 

Here’s the audio version of Everything is Political if you prefer: 

 

 

Acknowledgments and Links

Thanks for dropping by.

Thank you to my family, friends, Patrons, and followers. A special shoutout (as always) to those who struggle every day and get up and keep going, every day.

Please support my work by signing up to be a Patron for a dollar or more a month or through dropping a tip at PayPal. Some of the other places you can find my work are on YouTube, SoundCloud, and the Out Of My Mind website.

Everything is Political

If you want to see my rants and ramblings about process and politics, you can find them at my personal Facebook, my Twitter, and my political Facebook page, Am I The Only One Dancing?.

You can go to its web page or Facebook page to find out more about my therapy practice, Responsive Mental Health Services, LLC.

Finally, as always, half of every dollar I make from videos, podcasts, and writing (through PayPal or Patreon) is donated to my best friend, Katherine Malone.  She has a deadly heart condition and needs a heart transplant, but must raise $20,000 for anti-rejection drugs before she can be placed on the transplant list. You can find out more here and here, and go here to donate directly to her GoFundMe. This will continue until Kathy’s heart is fully funded. After that, half up to $500 a month will continue to be donated to assist her in paying for her anti-rejection meds.

A final reminder:  You are each important and have both much to teach, and much to learn. I look forward to learning from and teaching you all.

Executive Function Part 2: Hacks and Workarounds

You have waited long enough. Part 1 covered definitions and causes of issues with executive function. Without further ado, here’s executive function part 2: 

Executive Function Part 2: Hacks and Workarounds

executive function pt. 2

I hesitated to use “hacks” here because I don’t want you to think I’m not taking executive function dysfunction lightly.  Finally decided that it was a short and plain way to say “stuff that works” and decided to keep it. 

If you’ve been following along with this series, you know that I am relying heavily on the research of Adele Diamond to bring these ideas to you. All mistakes and misunderstandings are my own. From her research, Diamond identified four major categories of ways to improve executive function regardless of what is causing dysfunction. They are: 

4 Proven Ways to Improve Overall Executive Function

Repeated practice.

That’s right. When your mom said “pick up the instrument and play” when she brought home the dreaded clarinet or tuba or violin, she was right. When you repeatedly put knowledge in your working memory and manipulate it, it begins to get stored deeper. When you practice ignoring external signals that are interrupting your thoughts, you improve it. When you get in the habit of using a planner every day, you get better at using it. If you start doing one new thing you were afraid to try each week, starting new tasks gets easier. 

Physical fitness.

Oh, come on now. I can hear you groan from here. I wouldn’t bring it up if there weren’t lots of research behind it, because I know that for a lot of you (us) physical activity comes with a lot of fear and doubt and pain. Work on muscles, aerobic fitness, and flexibility all contribute to improving executive function. That doesn’t mean you have to run marathons or be a gymnast or weight lifter, only that whatever you’re doing, do a bit more of it, and do it more consistently. This has been found to improve things significantly even for seniors with dementia, so, hey, maybe a bit of sweat isn’t a bad thing. 

Language learning.

I sometimes wonder if the average European is healthier in part because the average European is bi- or multi-lingual. I mean, universal health care probably has something to do with it, but… Anyhow, yes. Learning a language improves executive function. As a reminder, “language” is not only limited to spoken and written languages. Roughly the same neural centers are activated in learning sign language, computer coding, HTML, mathematics, and music. So pick a new language or “language” to learn, and feel your brain getting “stronger”

Incremental increases in difficulty:

Make what you’re doing a little bit harder, pretty much every time you try. Think back to learning how to spell. One week you were spelling three letter words, then four. Pretty soon you could sound out two syllable words and started learning the rules for the various language interlopers into the English language so that you could (sometimes) remember the difference between they’re, their, and there. Whatever you’re trying to improve about your executive function, keep stretching, every day. 

executive function part 2General Strategies for Improving Various Executive Functions

Note: Several of the executive function part 2 exercises call for trying the exercise for three months. The reason for this is because it takes approximately that long to create a habit. Work on one habit for a month or two, see if you can start another without dropping the first, and if not, finish the three months with the first habit before starting the next. Try to have them build on each other. 

mindfulness practice: 

There is a lot of excellent science behind a regular mindfulness practice, where you spend anywhere between a few minutes and a half hour or more each day in a mindful state. We’ll talk later about mindfulness in the context of DBT, but today I’m talking about mindfulness in the traditional sense of exercises in being still and aware. 

Exercise: For three months, set an alarm for right before you go to bed, or right after you wake up, and spend three minutes doing “foursquare breathing”.  Click the link for a helpful video to get you started. (not mine, this time) 

set a timer: 

For things that you’re struggling to do, set a timer for five or ten or twenty minute or an hour. Do as much of the task as you can in that time, then take a five or ten or twenty-minute break, rinse and repeat. The traditional “Pomodoro” technique calls for 25 minutes of work to five minutes of rest, but you do you.

Exercise: Every day for three months, choose one thing that is hard for you to do, and do three “mini-Pomodoros” of at least ten minutes work, five minutes rest toward the task. 

chunking:

This means to pick a day (once a week or month is good) to do a group of similar tasks together. Combine this with using the timer, above, if that works for you. So, suppose you need to do reports. Plan a workday to several similar reports to keep your brain on one “track”. Or at home, if you need to sort clothes between keep, donate, and trash, do everyone’s on the same weekend, rather than worrying about other tasks. Each task will build on the last and make the whole thing easier. 

Exercise: Pick a day every month to have a “chunking” day. Get others involved, and everyone gets a pizza or a movie party afterward. 

Visualize: 

When you have something big you’re trying to do, from finding a job to designing a new whatsit, see it before you build it. This can involve simply closing your eyes and imagining the steps, for simpler things, to using mindmaps, a journal (or bullet journal) or planner, spreadsheets, or a “vision board”. There are likely to be lots of scratchy, scribbly notes and half-finished thoughts and dead ends. That’s good. It means the process is working. 

Exercise: Buy or “crib together” a planner, paper, electronic or some combination. On a fresh page or file, name your project, and every day set a timer for five or ten minutes and add something to your plan. Or take something away. Or make up wild ideas. 

Priority Lists: 

Where people mess up with listing their priority lists is either to write them on something that gets lost or to make them too long. Don’t include things you’re already good at getting done. Only write down the things you need to get better at doing or need to do one time or infrequently. 

Exercise: Every single day write down three things you want to accomplish before the end of the day. This can be as simple as 1. get out of bed 2. drink coffee 3. prepare the coffee pot for tomorrow, or earthshaking, lifesaving stuff. Write it down someplace you won’t lose it. An app on your phone, a planner you carry everywhere, or on your refrigerator door or bathroom or bedroom mirror. 

Partnering: 

Everyone do-si-do! Grab a partner and ’round we go! Find a supportive friend, co-worker, or family member, or a supportive professional, and ask them to help you stay accountable. Return the favor for them. Become exercise buddies, or have them over to help you visualize your idea, or take turns helping each other do a major cleaning task. 

Exercise: Make a list of three people you could count on to help you with something on this list even if their help is limited by distance or busy-ness. Call at least one of them and ask for the help you need. 

create extrinsic motives:

“Extrinsic” is a fancy psychology word for “external” or “outside of yourself”. I keep repeating it in these articles and videos so you learn a new word. When feeling good about yourself or liking the work you did isn’t enough, reward yourself. 

Exercises: There are two here. The first is to make a list of small, inexpensive and relatively emotionally/physically healthy things you can do to reward yourself on a regular basis for things you’ve achieved. The second is to pick one of those things to reward yourself every single time you complete a goal from one of the other exercises in this article. 

It Isn’t About Perfection

You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to miss days. And you’re going to think something is the perfect solution and it turns out to be a disaster. That’s okay. 

What I want you to do when you mess up is remember that every handmade work of art has at least one mistake in it, whether or not you can see it. I can guarantee the creator can see it. So do three things, no matter how your attempts go:

experiment

If your first attempt doesn’t work, change it up a bit. 

Persist

Keep trying. Take a (short) break to calm yourself, and try again. 

evolve

Keep growing and learning and move more and more of those brain functions from your pre-frontal cortex executive functions to your lizard brain (basal ganglia) where they become mostly automatic. You want the roots of these habits you’re creating to sink in deep. 

See you next time. Let me know what you think of the video and article in the comments. 

More on Executive Function

You can find part one of this series, Executive Function Pt. 1: What is it? by clicking the link. Executive Function Pt. 3: Forming Habits is next, and it will lead you to the next in the series. To view all of the Executive Function videos as a playlist, go to Youtube (please like the videos, comment, and follow my channel to keep current). To listen to all of the Executive Function audio as a playlist, go to SoundCloud (again, please like the podcasts, comment, and follow my channel to keep current. 

Acknowledgments and Links

Thanks for dropping by for Executive Function part 2. 

Thank you to my family, friends, Patrons, and followers. A special shoutout (as always) to those who struggle every day and get up and keep going, every day.

Please support my work by signing up to be a Patron for a dollar or more a month or through dropping a tip at PayPal. Some of the other places you can find my work are on YouTube, SoundCloud, and the Out Of My Mind website.

If you want to see my rants and ramblings about process and politics, you can find them at my personal Facebook, my Twitter, and my political Facebook page, Am I The Only One Dancing?.

You can go to its web page or Facebook page to find out more about my therapy practice, Responsive Mental Health Services, LLC.

Why I’m Doing This

Finally, as always, half of every dollar I make from videos, podcasts, and writing (through PayPal or Patreon) is donated to my best friend, Katherine Malone.  She has a deadly heart condition and needs a heart transplant, but must raise $20,000 for anti-rejection drugs before she can be placed on the transplant list. You can find out more here and here, and go here to donate directly to her GoFundMe. This will continue until Kathy’s heart is fully funded. After that, half up to $500 a month will continue to be donated to assist her in paying for her anti-rejection meds.

A final reminder:  You are each important and have both much to teach, and much to learn. I look forward to learning from and teaching you all.

Microfiction: Our Trans-Cyborg Overlords

They know I’m here. I can feel them.

Looking up from the page, Dirk adjusted the dim light from his homemade candle and dipped his quill into the ink he’d made from blood and soot. No other light entered his bunker.

How am I to escape? They have enhanced vision, reflexes, muscles. I am just flesh and bone. As far as I know, I’m the last one. The last male.

“Dirk? Dirk?!? Are you hungry?” Bright light shined suddenly into his bunker and Dirk shut his eyes against it, refusing to look at his

trans-cyber overlords
Our trans-cyborg overlords doff a hat

sibling.

 

“Put it next to the door,” he muttered. “And shut it.”

His sibling Addy (sister, he thought, sister) silently swapped his honey bucket before setting down his food and leaving.

“The door’s always open” they (she!) said. The light from Addy’s enhanced eyes glowed in the dim light as they gazed at him sadly.

He looked away. “Are there others like me?”

His sibling smiled sadly. “You are unique,” they said, “and precious. But no, you are not alone. Come out and see.”

Dirk knew it was a trick. “Go,” He returned to his writing.

The door closed on him as Addy retreated. They carried the honey pot to the toilet and dumped the contents, flushing them down, and disinfected their smooth, silicon hands.

In the common room of the house, the rest of Dirk’s and Addy’s siblings were watching holovision. “Is he okay?” their youngest sibling, Pol, asked.

“No, honey,” Addy replied, “He’s not. But we’ll keep loving him anyhow.”

“Is he still a boy?” Pol asked. “I think I want to be a boy, too.”

“Yes, he is,” Addy answered. “And that’s fine. For him, and for you.”

“Okay.” Pol went back to watching his show.

(happy #TransDayOfVisibility, folks)

our trans-cyborg overlords

Acknowledgments and Links

Thanks for dropping by.

Thank you to my family, friends, Patrons, and followers. A special shoutout (as always) to those who struggle every day and get up and keep going, every day.

Please support my work by signing up to be a Patron for a dollar or more a month or through dropping a tip at PayPal. Some of the other places you can find my work are on YouTube, SoundCloud, and the Out Of My Mind website.

If you want to see my rants and ramblings about process and politics, you can find them at my personal Facebook, my Twitter, and my political Facebook page, Am I The Only One Dancing?.

You can go to its web page or Facebook page to find out more about my therapy practice, Responsive Mental Health Services, LLC.

Finally, as always, half of every dollar I make from videos, podcasts, and writing (through PayPal or Patreon) is donated to my best friend, Katherine Malone, who has a deadly heart condition and needs a heart transplant, but must raise $20,000 for anti-rejection drugs before she can be placed on the transplant list. You can find out more here and here, and go here to donate directly to her GoFundMe. This will continue until Kathy’s heart is fully funded, and after that, half up to $500 a month will continue to be donated to assist her in paying for her anti-rejection meds.

A final reminder:  You are each important and have both much to teach, and much to learn. I look forward to learning from and teaching you all.

Executive Function Pt 1: What Is It?

Executive Function Pt 1: What Is It?

As always, busy life and my own executive function issues prevent same day article and video publication. First, watch the video. It comes complete with my standard fidgeting with my fingers and rambling as I wander off my outline and back on again. Let me know what you think in the comments here or on YouTube. 

Executive Function: Definition and Explanation

Executive function has a lot of definitions.  The best one I’ve found came from an article in Annual Review of Psychology written by Adele Diamond (click on the link to read the entire article in PDF form). It reads: 

“Executive functions (EFs; also called executive control or cognitive control) refer to a

family of top-down mental processes needed when you have to concentrate and pay

attention, when going on automatic or relying on instinct or intuition would be ill-advised,

insufficient, or impossible (Burgess & Simons 2005, Espy 2004, Miller & Cohen 2001).”

Let me put that in plain English for you. Executive functions are a group of brain functions that:

  • “oversee” your automatic brain functions
  • help you pay attention and organize information
  • need to be consciously “in control” of your brain to get something done that can’t be done “automatically”. 

Categories of Executive Function: 

Depending on the source, there are anywhere between six and a dozen categories of executive function. I identified eight that I think need to be identified separately to help people. You’ll probably notice that in the video the issue of executive function disorder comes before this. In writing, I decided it made more sense to put this first.

I translated much (but not all) of the article from the academic article by Diamond referenced above into plain English. Some of these are “primary” functions, and others are “secondary” functions that rely on the primary functions to work. Each deserves its own category when talking about how executive function issues affect lives. 

Working Memory

Working memory is the executive function that allows you to hold information “in your head” long enough to work with it. This might be the steps in a task such as how to clean a kitchen It could also be being able to figure out where to find the items in your grocery list at your favorite store.

If something is in your working memory you need to be able to adjust it, change it, or otherwise manipulate it, not just remember it. So, remembering the items on your grocery list might be short-term memory, while being able to figure out where to find those items in an unfamiliar grocery store would be working memory. 

Flexible Thinking

Also called “cognitive flexibility”, flexible thinking has several sub-categories. These include:

  • being able to see things from another point of view, both in the sense of imagining what a room looks like from a different angle, and from the sense of imagining how something looks like from another person’s perspective.
  • figuring out different ways to solve problems when our first choice isn’t working well (or at all).
  • adjusting to changes in routine or expectations (for instance, getting up earlier or later, getting a new boss who has new priorities, etc.)
  • admitting to mistakes
  • taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. For instance, realizing that the person you have a crush on just showed up at your favorite coffee house, and saying “hi”. 

Impulse Control

 

Impulse control is part of what Diamond calls “inhibitory control” along with emotional control (and some aspects of task initiation). At its simplest, it means wanting to do one thing, but putting it off or deciding not to do it in order to do something else that is more important in some sense. Someone who is on a diet and decides not to grab a bagel from the break room at work is showing impulse control. 

Another part of impulse control is the ability to consciously reject things that aren’t important to what you’re trying to do. Some examples include background noise, unwanted memories and thoughts, and deciding not to be drawn into arguments that take time away from what you’re trying to do. I’m pretty bad at that last one, by the way. 

Self-monitoring

When you self-monitor you notice things that let you know how you’re feeling and things that let you know how others are reacting to you. So, if you realize you’re being cranky because you’re stressed, that’s self-monitoring. It is also self-monitoring to be aware that people are reacting well, or badly, to something you just said or did. 

Emotional Control

Emotional control allows you to experience and recognize emotions while choosing to do the things you need to do. Someone who is anxious about learning something new but is able to put their anxiety “on hold” while they attend the class or read the article is showing emotional control. 

Task Initiation and Self-Motivation

Task Initiation and self-motivation are two closely related executive functions. I chose to distinguish them from prioritization and planning but lump together here. Task initiation is a fancy term for “starting a task”. You may have a very important paper to write or phone call to make, and it may take significant effort to “get your brain in order” to start.

Related to this is self-motivation. This involves the concept of “intrinsic” rewards, which means rewards that come from things inside you, like enjoying finishing a job, or liking the feeling of doing something “good”. For instance, someone who makes their bed every morning because it makes them “feel good” is self-motivated. 

By contrast, “extrinsic” rewards are rewards that come from outside yourself. A person who makes their bed because it makes someone who lives with them be nicer to them is not necessarily self-motivated, even if they are motivated. 

Organization

“Organization”, as I mean it here, refers to maintaining the physical space you control in a way that you can find the things you need to find, keep them safe and well maintained, and in such a way that they make doing the things that are important to do easier for you. This can mean very different things for different people.

An artist’s studio is going to be organized in a very different way than a kitchen of someone who enjoys making dinners from scratch. That space, in turn, will be different from a space which is designed to be safe and enriching for children.

The keys are:

  1. can you find what you need? 
  2. Are people and items both safe and not being damaged by conditions in the space and
  3. Does your work go the way you want it to? 

Planning, Prioritization, and Task Management

These three closely allied ideas work together to make sure people use their time well. You use your executive function abilities to decide what you’re going to do, when, and which task comes before another. Using abilities such as inhibitory control, flexible thinking, and working memory, we choose one task to do first, and then another, and make changes as needed. 

When working on a project with other people, it’s likely that your first step (priority) will be to meet with the group to get agreement on what the goal of the group project is and who will do what. Then you might plan out your piece of that project, meet with the group again to “check in”, and adjust what you’re doing to meet the needs of the group and the project. 

(It occurs to me that I didn’t expand the eight concepts nearly enough in my videos, so I will probably revisit them later, perhaps one or two at a time) 

Executive Function Disorder

Executive function disorder is a symptom, not a disease. If your executive functioning isn’t working properly, probably something is interfering with it. EF issues can affect one or all eight of the categories above, a little bit or a lot. They can be constant or every now and then.  Here is a partial list  of issues that can affect executive function and cause problems for you:

  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • addiction
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • other learning disorders
  • injury to the pre-frontal cortex
  • some cancer treatments
  • dyslexia
  • mood disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorders
  • other anxiety disorders
  • psychotic disorders
  • chronic pain
  • normal aging
  • dementia
  • sleep deprivation
  • stress
  • loneliness
  • physical illness/lack of physical fitness

As you can see, the ability to use executive functions is extremely fragile and can be affected by biological issues, psychological issues, and physical issues. In the next video/audio/article, I’ll go over ways to improve your executive function. 

More on Executive Function

You can find part two of this series, Executive Function: Hacks and Workarounds, by clicking the link. It will, in turn, lead you to the next in the series, Executive Function Pt. 3: Forming Habits. To view all of the Executive Function videos as a playlist, go to Youtube (please like the videos, comment, and follow my channel to keep current). To listen to all of the Executive Function audio as a playlist, go to SoundCloud (again, please like the podcasts, comment, and follow my channel to keep current. 

Acknowledgments and Links

Thanks for dropping by.

Thank you to my family, friends, Patrons, and followers. A special shoutout (as always) to those who struggle every day and get up and keep going, every day.

Please support my work by signing up to be a Patron for a dollar or more a month or through dropping a tip at PayPal. Some of the other places you can find my work are at YouTube, SoundCloud, and the Out Of My Mind website.

If you want to see my rants and ramblings about process and politics, you can find them at my personal Facebook, my Twitter, and my political Facebook page, Am I The Only One Dancing?.

You can go to its web page or Facebook page to find out more about my therapy practice, Responsive Mental Health Services, LLC.

Finally, as always, half of every dollar I make from videos, podcasts, and writing (through PayPal or Patreon) is donated to my best friend, Katherine Malone, who has a deadly heart condition and needs a heart transplant, but must raise $20,000 for anti-rejection drugs before she can be placed on the transplant list. You can find out more here and here, and go here to donate directly to her GoFundMe. This will continue until Kathy’s heart is fully funded, and after that, half up to $500 a month will continue to be donated to assist her in paying for her anti-rejection meds.

A final reminder:  You are each important and have both much to teach, and much to learn. I look forward to learning from and teaching you all.

 

Microfiction: Diana And The Donald

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Diana could hear the concern in Clark’s voice. He’d been at the Fortress of Solitude since the election, his immigration status uncertain.

 

Black and white drawing of strong woman with black hair wearing crown and bodice
Wonder Woman attribution @kylemjones Flickr

“Yes,” she lied. Her mother had prepared her for missions like this in the world of Men, but they were unpleasant. “Bruce got me an invite to Mar-A-Largo. POTUS thinks I’m from the Greek government, and Bruce let him think I’m interested in a private,” she purred, “diplomatic negotiation.”

Clark guffawed. “It’s a good thing you can act.”

“You aren’t wrong,” she replied, allowing her disgust to leak through.

“If you need any backup you can call — “

“Bruce.” She cut him off. “Or Barry. You have to play lie low. Arthur is tending to his kingdom, J’onn is deep undercover on a mission of his own, and Hal is off ensuring that the Trappist planets don’t pose a threat. And Bruce has an invite.”

That earned her another laugh, this one sour.

“How did we get here?,” she asked.

She heard him shake his head in frustration and pain. “I haven’t the foggiest idea.”

When she ended the phone call, she sighed, slipped out of the soft linen tunic she wore when she was alone in her apartment, and stepped into the bath for a long, deep soak. It had been a long couple of years since the election, and the end game was close. As soon as she finished the bath, she made one more call. “Hi, Bruce? Is everything ready?”

Reassured, she hung up and got dressed. With her bracelets in place and a tiny camera with microphone disguised as a pendant necklace, she tied her golden lasso as a belt, to complete the ensemble. The truth would set them all free.

Black and white drawing of strong woman with black hair wearing crown and bodice
Wonder Woman attribution @kylemjones Flickr

Acknowledgments and Links

Thanks for dropping by.

Thank you to my family, friends, Patrons, and followers. A special shoutout (as always) to those who struggle every day and get up and keep going, every day.

Please support my work by signing up to be a Patron for a dollar or more a month or through dropping a tip at PayPal. Some of the other places you can find my work are at YouTube, SoundCloud, and the Out Of My Mind website.

If you want to see my rants and ramblings about process and politics, you can find them at my personal Facebook, my Twitter, and my political Facebook page, Am I The Only One Dancing?.

You can go to its web page or Facebook page to find out more about my therapy practice, Responsive Mental Health Services, LLC.

Finally, as always, half of every dollar I make from videos, podcasts, and writing (through PayPal or Patreon) is donated to my best friend, Katherine Malone, who has a deadly heart condition and needs a heart transplant, but must raise $20,000 for anti-rejection drugs before she can be placed on the transplant list. You can find out more here and here, and go here to donate directly to her GoFundMe. This will continue until Kathy’s heart is fully funded, and after that, half up to $500 a month will continue to be donated to assist her in paying for her anti-rejection meds.

A final reminder:  You are each important and have both much to teach, and much to learn. I look forward to learning from and teaching you all.

4 Ways To Handle Any Problem Pt 2: Community And Society

4 Ways To Handle Any Problem Pt 2

As promised, this is 4 Ways To Handle Any Problem Pt 2. The first half is here. The concept is taken from the orientation to DBT therapy from Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., and consists of four basic points: 

  1. Solve the problem
  2. Feel better about the problem
  3. Tolerate the problem
  4. Stay miserable

One of the reasons I like this framing of the issue is that by identifying “stay miserable” as a decision instead of something that just happens, it allows you to consciously choose or reject it, and even use it strategically as part of your larger goal. 

Four Currencies To Use To Affect The World

In talking about this issue on a community and societal (political) level, I also introduce the four major currencies we bring to change at this level:

  1. Time
  2. Money
  3. Influence
  4. Power

We choose from among those currencies depending upon our reserves and work to build those we don’t have enough of, in order to make larger changes that will positively affect our lives and the lives of people in our world. For those struggling with the difference between influence and power, influence is the ability to persuade others (presumably those with one of the other currencies, time, money, or power) and power is the ability to directly make a societal action.

For instance, a writer might be able to influence others to donate to a cause or volunteer for a cause, or even persuade an official to choose a different action, while someone with societal power such as a business CEO, a politician, judge, education administrator or similar person who makes decisions for an institution can make decisions based on the inherent power of the position.

Complexifying the “4 Ways” Concepts

The final major point I make with this video is that with regard to a particular issue, you might simultaneously be solving a problem while tolerating a related problem or piece of that problem while feeling better about another piece or related problem, and feeling miserable about still another piece. This idea is adapted from motivational interviewing’s stages of change model and deals with how change is complex and non-linear.

For instance, suppose I am trying to get a specific policy initiative passed at any level of government. I might simultaneously be:

  1. Using influence and/or time to reach out to politicians with the power to pass the law (solving the problem).
  2. Reminding myself that I am using as much of whatever my currency as I have to spare (feeling better about the problem).
  3. Changing my behavior to adjust to the reality that the law I want isn’t in place yet and “make do” (tolerating the problem).
  4. Despairing, every now and then, because the current situation is hurting me and/or people I care about (staying miserable). 

(Side note: All of the community and society videos are at least partially applicable to family life as well). 

Acknowledgments and Links

YouTube has (so far) done a decent job of subtitling my videos, so if you have hearing impairments or (like me) have a housemate who never turns off the television, you should be able to follow along just fine through the subtitles. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments. 

Thanks to Jean Rossner LMFT for the “Out Of My Mind” name. 

Thanks to  Ryan, Sean, Liz, Addy, Cortez, Tessa and the rest of my “kids”, and Jason, Kathy, Missy, Laura, Gin, and all the friends near and far who fulfill my life. 

Thanks for dropping by.

Please support my work by signing up to be a Patron for a dollar or more a month or through dropping a tip at PayPal. Some of the other places you can find my work are at YouTube, SoundCloud, and the Out Of My Mind website.

If you want to see my rants and ramblings about process and politics, you can find them at my personal Facebook, my Twitter, and my political Facebook page, Am I The Only One Dancing?.

You can go to its web page or Facebook page to find out more about my therapy practice, Responsive Mental Health Services, LLC.

Finally, as always, half of every dollar I make from videos, podcasts, and writing (through PayPal or Patreon) is donated to my best friend, Katherine Malone, who has a deadly heart condition and needs a heart transplant, but must raise $20,000 for anti-rejection drugs before she can be placed on the transplant list. You can find out more here and here, and go here to donate directly to her GoFundMe. This will continue until Kathy’s heart is fully funded, and after that, half up to $500 a month will continue to be donated to assist her in paying for her anti-rejection meds.

A final reminder:  You are each important and have both much to teach, and much to learn. I look forward to learning from and teaching you all.

 

See you next time. 

 

4 Ways To Handle Any Problem (from DBT)

 

4 Ways To Handle Any Problem (From DBT)

Here is my first attempt at a video-cast. In the interest of getting it out and produced, I fixed the worst of the problems (it recorded vertically vs. horizontally, so I flipped the video, which caused some scale loss) but left the audio issues and didn’t attempt any real post-production. Without further ado, 4 ways to handle any problem:

 

 

From the video, how I handled the problem:

1. I solved the problem of the flipped video by learning some rudimentary skills in Microsoft’s video editor and in Blender

2. I changed my feelings about the video by emphasizing that I finished it, and if I got it out before midnight, I would keep my promise. 

3. I tolerated the problem by accepting that this video is far from perfect and that my learning curve will help others.

4. I stayed miserable by not getting the rest I should have today, in order to work on the video and on websites today. 

Let me know what you think. 

The next video in this series will address the 4 ways to handle any problem from a community/societal (political) point of view. When it is released from Patreon and added to the site, I will link it here. 

Acknowledgments:

The concept comes from DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets 2nd Edition copyright 2015 by Marsha Linehan PhD, ABPP.  All mistakes and misunderstandings are my own. 

Thanks to Jean Rossner LMFT for the “Out Of My Mind” name. 

Thanks to  Ryan, Sean, Liz, Addy, Cortez, Tessa and the rest of my “kids”, and Jason, Kathy, Missy, Laura, Gin, and all the friends near and far who fulfill my life. 

Finally, thanks to all my therapy participants and their families. I learn at least as much from you all as you do from me

Thanks for dropping by.

Please support my work by signing up to be a Patron for a dollar or more a month or through dropping a tip at PayPal. Some of the other places you can find my work are at YouTube, SoundCloud, and the Out Of My Mind website.

If you want to see my rants and ramblings about process and politics, you can find them at my personal Facebook, my Twitter, and my political Facebook page, Am I The Only One Dancing?.

You can go to its web page or Facebook page to find out more about my therapy practice, Responsive Mental Health Services, LLC.

Finally, as always, half of every dollar I make from videos, podcasts, and writing (through PayPal or Patreon) is donated to my best friend, Katherine Malone, who has a deadly heart condition and needs a heart transplant, but must raise $20,000 for anti-rejection drugs before she can be placed on the transplant list. You can find out more here and here, and go here to donate directly to her GoFundMe. This will continue until Kathy’s heart is fully funded, and after that, half up to $500 a month will continue to be donated to assist her in paying for her anti-rejection meds.

A final reminder:  You are each important and have both much to teach, and much to learn. I look forward to learning from and teaching you all.