Help! Climate Change Is Stressing Me Out

The health of the planet is deeply connected to our mental health. While people who are directly affected by environmental disasters and climate change are at the greatest risk of developing mental-health problems, many who aren’t in the line of fire are suffering as well. Increased awareness of the looming threats to the environment and bearing witness to the current changes are psychologically distressing. Watching the toll of these irreversible changes on the planet can lead to what is known as eco-anxiety: the ongoing worry, fear, and frustration about the future for oneself and for future generations.

A sense of hopelessness and helplessness often accompanies eco-anxiety. Threats to the environment are so complex and widespread, sometimes it’s hard to imagine how an individual can make a meaningful difference. Watching the devastation of a violent storm hundreds of miles away or seeing piles of trash in your neighborhood can feel equally intimidating. Resignation, guilt, and fatalism can result in not only eco-anxiety but also eco-paralysis.

While a lot may be beyond your personal control, look for everyday ways to contribute to the health of the environment. A recent report by the American Psychological Association titled “Mental Health and our Changing Climate” recommends taking positive actions like walking or biking to work and using public transportation instead of driving. Not only are these actions good for the earth, they are also good for you. Whatever you do, make sure you are walking the walk. If you say you care about the planet, make sure your lifestyle reflects it. Use clean energy, buy local food when possible, use green products, and, last but not least, get to the voting booth.

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Marie Claire

I Want It And I Want It Now

Patience may be a virtue but it’s wearing thin. A study of over 2000 British adults confirmed what most of us already know, we hate to wait and we are less patient than ever. Frustration sets in after:
  • 25 seconds of waiting for a traffic light to turn green

  • 20 seconds for ink to dry on a greeting card

  • 18 seconds looking for a pen

  • 16 seconds of waiting for a webpage to load

  • 14 minutes waiting for an order to arrive in a restaurant

People don’t even have the patience for experiences traditionally associated with relaxation: “Even a cup of tea, an undeniable symbol of British leisure time, incited anger among respondents if the kettle took more than 28 seconds to boil.” The study did not inquire what would happen if they had to wait for milk and sugar. Despite the desire for immediate gratification and growing impatience, the reality is that everyday life requires a great deal of patience. Whether it’s waiting for a subway, standing in line at the DMV, grasping a difficult concept, completing a challenging project, or dealing with a difficult person, knowing how to cope with frustration is important for wellbeing and goal achievement. While most people think of patience as a trait people either have--as in, “Samantha is such a patient person” or don’t have, research shows that patience can be increased. Gratitude, meditation, and emotional regulation strategies like reappraisal have all been shown to help people grow their patience muscle. One last thought, model patience for your kids. You can react to a traffic jam by honking your horn or shouting out the window or you could think of it as more quality time to spend with your child.

“Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” Aristotle 

Kiana Cabell and Gigi Goldman

Kiana Cabell and Gigi Goldman are the Co-Founders of Kopari Beauty, a company that makes clean, coconut products ranging from skin, hair and personal care.

Parents, Save Your Breath

What’s the best way to motivate a student who lacks motivation?  I frequently encounter parents who ask me this question. Full disclosure, it’s a question I would like an answer for myself. Getting my children to do homework is no easy feat.  Punishment for not doing it is one strategy but realistically, how many times can you take away their phone? Rewards are another option but studies show that this is not necessarily a good idea. It might work for a little while but always expecting something in return for putting in the effort can actually undermine motivation.  For instance, if you incentivize your child to get good grades with cash, it’s unlikely they will ever find any internal motivation to want to learn on their own.   My go-to strategy has always been to explain why working hard is important and then to offer time tested advice about creating solid study habits. I worked my tail off in school and think of myself as a treasure trove of information about how to do well. For years, I was convinced that my words of wisdom would light the academic fire within my children. Perhaps seeing their eyes glaze over as I banged on about the benefits of applying oneself and doing one’s best should have alerted me to the reality that the message wasn’t sinking in.  So, what does help? Research from the University of Pennsylvania offers a counterintuitive solution. Instead of giving students expert advice about how to do well in school (as I have been doing ad nauseam), ask them to provide advice to other students about how to do well. In the study, middle school students (6th, 7th, and 8th grades) who shared their thoughts about why school matters with 4th graders and, specifically about the importance of doing vocabulary homework, became more motivated to study vocabulary themselves.  To measure motivation, the researchers tracked the number of minutes advice-giving students spent on an online vocabulary training program following the intervention. Here is an example of a 7th grader’s words of wisdom to a younger student:

“As you become older, you start to realize what is important to you. I realized that school and academics are the most important thing. It is still fun to do things outside of school, but you have to realize what is important to you.”  

A different group of middle schoolers received advice from teachers on how to be better students. Here is an example: “Trying your hardest is always the way to go. You should always try and do better. Don’t settle. Always try to make things better and better. You need to put in your full effort, not just coast by! Sometimes that means putting in a lot of time after the school day ends, like studying vocabulary online. It’s very important to apply yourself to your work, even once the school day is over.”   These tips are remarkably similar to the ones provided by yours truly to my kids. In the same way that my advice has had minimal impact, the teachers’ advice didn’t affect student motivation either. These advice receivers didn’t spend any more time studying vocabulary afterwards.   Contrary to the assumption of well-meaning parents and teachers everywhere, explaining to children why and how they should study doesn’t make much of a difference. It seems that children are fully aware of the value of an education and optimal study habits. In other words, they don’t need more information. What they need is motivation. A more effective strategy is to ask them to give advice to other students.  What is so special about giving advice? It boosts confidence and is empowering. Instead of being a struggling student in need of guidance, when you give advice, you become a new person with valuable experience capable of providing guidance. Plus, human beings like to be consistent. When advocating for an idea, we take ownership of it. In the process of telling another person about how important something is, we remind and persuade ourselves of its importance too.    The motivational power of giving advice isn’t just for students. People trying to lose weight, control their temper, save money, and find a new job became more motivated after giving advice to other people facing the same issues than when they received advice from experts. Helping others fueled their own desire to be successful.   All too often, we confuse motivational problems with informational deficits. Getting advice from others is helpful only when we lack information but not in areas when we’re already in the know.  Indeed, most are fully aware of what they need to do in order to eat healthier, save money, control their anger, and be better students. Traversing the gulf that separates knowledge from action is the challenge. As these studies suggest, flipping strugglers from receivers into givers provides a bridge.   Next time you encounter a person or a child who is having trouble reaching a goal, save your breath. Instead of offering your words of wisdom, flip the script, and ask them what they would say to another person in a similar predicament. In giving, they will receive.  

Can People Really Change?

Early on, society labels us, we label ourselves, and we label others. A child is told he is a good or a bad listener. A high school student thinks of herself as good or bad at math. These labels become even more entrenched in adulthood. A coworker might be thought of as a “lazy human being.” You might decide you will never be a good cook or that you are not a morning person. These beliefs are all based on the idea that people don’t change. Not so long ago, scientists held a similar opinion about the brain. The prevailing belief was that the adult brain was completely formed and unchangeable. The number of connections and neurons was thought to be finite. Any notion of brain change or growth was dismissed as science fiction. But new research shows this is not the case at all. In fact, the brain is far more malleable than once thought, responding to changing environments and situations and reorganizing itself throughout our life.

What happens to the brains of London taxi drivers is one of my favorite examples of how the brain can change. Unlike cabbies in other cities, London cabbies are forced to learn thousands of street names and routes in order to pass a notoriously difficult licensing exam known as the Knowledge. It requires a tremendous amount of memorization, and researchers were curious about how this affects the brain. In scans, they found that the part of the taxi drivers’ brains associated with memory is significantly larger than the average person’s. In the same way that the brain is changeable and capable of adapting, so are we. Skills can be learned, abilities can be developed, and character can be cultivated. When we adopt a growth mind-set, we open ourselves up to possibilities and explore our potential and the potential of others.

Recognizing that you are not set in stone can help you cope with stress, develop new interests, and make new connections. It can even make you a better friend and partner. To facilitate a switch from a fixed “I am who I am” mind-set to a growth mind-set, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, recommends attaching the word yet to new challenges, e.g. “I am not a master chef yet.” It will help remind you that you are a work in progress, not a finished product.

This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Marie Claire

Why Reading Is So Good For You

People increasingly tell me they have a hard time starting a book, let alone finishing one. Reading a book takes time and concentration-two rarities of daily experience. There are so many competing demands on attention. Who has the time to actually sit down and lose oneself in a book? In our busy lives, quick reads like news updates and snackable articles may be the only reading we have the energy and bandwidth for but don’t let this mindset get between you and a book during vacation. A great book can make a holiday even more memorable. You will always remember where you were when you read it. Take a favorite from the past or a new one someone you trust recommends or one that takes place where you are going. Reading opens us up to the experiences of others and provides an escape from the echo chambers of our own minds.  Studies suggest it might even build empathy by awakening awareness, broadening perspective, and expanding imagination. As author L.R Knost observed, “Humanly speaking, there is no greater teacher, no greater therapist, no greater healer of the soul, than a well-stocked library.” A patient stopped reading fiction somewhere between her first and second child. Life got in the way. Scrolling replaced deep reading. She found her way back to novels after a friend insisted she take Anthony Doerr’s All the Light You Cannot See on a trip to France.  While sitting in a cafe, instead of picking up her phone, she would reach for her book. She said it enhanced her experience immeasurably and shielded her from tumbling down the rabbit hole of pointless scrolling, commenting, and liking. The vacation is long over but the joy of reading lingers. After putting the kids to bed, instead of turning on the television, she makes a habit of reading instead. She has found that reading a few pages is the perfect vacation for a restless mind. This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Marie Claire.

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Kiana Cabell and Gigi Goldman


Kiana Cabell and Gigi Goldman are the Co-Founders of Kopari Beauty, a company that makes clean, coconut products ranging from skin, hair and personal care.

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Help! Climate Change Is Stressing Me Out

The health of the planet is deeply connected to our mental health. While people who are directly affected by environmental disasters and climate change...

I Want It And I Want It Now

Patience may be a virtue but it’s wearing thin. A study of over 2000 British adults confirmed what most of us already know, we...

Parents, Save Your Breath

What’s the best way to motivate a student who lacks motivation?  I frequently encounter parents who ask me this question. Full disclosure, it’s a question...

Can People Really Change?

Early on, society labels us, we label ourselves, and we label others. A child is told he is a good or a bad listener....

Why Reading Is So Good For You

People increasingly tell me they have a hard time starting a book, let alone finishing one. Reading a book takes time and concentration-two rarities of...

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