Suicide attempts by children have spiked during the pandemic, especially among girls

Suicide attempts by children have spiked during the pandemic, especially among girls

Five years ago, if a child younger than 13 arrived at Maine Medical Center for treatment following a suicide attempt, it was rare and notable.

It’s no longer rare.

If your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger, dial 911.

For immediate assistance during a mental health crisis, call or text the Maine 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at 888-568-1112.

For any other support or referrals, call the NAMI Maine Help Line at 800-464-5767 or email helpline@namimaine.org.

National resources are also available. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also contact the National Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Warning signs of teen suicide might include:

  • Talking about suicide, including making statements like “I’m going to kill myself” or “I won’t be a problem for you much longer”
  • Withdrawing from social contact
  • Having mood swings
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Feeling trapped, hopeless or helpless about a situation
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things
  • Giving away belongings when there is no other logical explanation for why this is being done
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated when experiencing some warning signs listed above

What to do if you suspect your teen is suicidal:

If you suspect your teen might be thinking about suicide, talk to them immediately. Don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide.” Talking about suicide won’t plant ideas in their head.

Ask your teen about their feelings and listen. Don’t dismiss their problems.

Seek medical help for your teen and follow through with the treatment plan.

“We’re seeing more of them and they’re younger. We have seen as young as 7 to 9 years old, which we never saw,” said Dr. Robyn Ostrander, division director of child and adolescent psychiatry. “It’s hard to wrap your head around that a child of that age would even conceive of suicide or know what it is, but it happens.”

In Maine and across the country, the number of adolescents who attempt suicide has risen dramatically, setting off alarm bells for mental health and suicide prevention experts who say more focus needs to be placed on talking about it and providing access to mental health services.

The increase is being driven largely by girls, who experts say experience depression at higher rates than boys and may be more likely to seek help for self-inflicted injuries.

Nationwide, emergency room visits following suicide attempts by girls age 12 to 17 spiked in 2020 and the first months of 2021. The number of girls who went to the hospital after a suspected suicide attempt rose 51 percent from March 2019 to March 2021, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase among boys was 3.7 percent.

When To Tell Kids About Bad News Events

When To Tell Kids About Bad News Events

It feels impossible to avoid bad headlines and news clips these days. As hard as it is to process all the negative things happening in the world as an adult, it’s even more challenging for children. That’s where parents come in.

“Children look to their parents to help them make sense of the world around them,” said Jonathan Comer, a psychology professor with Florida International University’s Center for Children and Families and director of the Network for Enhancing Wellness in Disaster-Affected Youth. “When bad things happen, kids take their cues from their parents, and they look to us as models to help them gauge how they should process or cope with difficult information.”

Talking to children about the news is an important way to educate them, normalize feelings, help them feel safe and inspire them to take positive action.

“Discussing difficult national and world events often provides key opportunities for parents to reaffirm family values with their children,” Comer noted. “Many difficult events create tangible opportunities to discuss important societal issues that transcend individual events ― such as inequality, resource insecurity, discrimination and injustice.”

But do kids need to know about every single flood, shooting, political uprising or other type of upsetting event? Below, Comer and other experts offer their advice for determining when to talk to children about bad news stories and how to approach the conversation in a productive way.

If it’s big enough or affects everyday life, definitely talk about it.

Many global, national or local news events are unavoidable topics, so parents should be the first source for their children to hear about these things and help them digest what is happening.

“There are major news events like a global pandemic that are going to have an effect on a child’s life either way ― or there are things like the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd that might be talked about at a young age in school, on the playground or on social media,” said Janine Domingues, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute. “When something is happening and not being talked about at home, it creates more uncertainty and anxiety for kids because they are attuned and know something is going on but we’re not talking about it.”

Because parents know their children best, they’re the optimal sources for sharing this kind of information, setting the context and discussing the emotions involved in processing it.

“Child-to-child news sharing is often filled with misunderstandings, rumors and large gaps in the real, essential information. There is far more control when discussions are held at home,” said Craig Knippenberg, a therapist and author of “Wired and Connected: Brain-Based Solutions to Ensure Your Child’s Social and Emotional Success.”

Why Is Play Good for Young Children?

A new study my colleagues and I just published (Gleason et al., 2021) provides insight into how play influences a child’s physiological development, specifically vagal tone.

Our studies overall examine the effects of our species’ developmental system, or evolved nest, on child and adult well-being (physiological, social, moral). Self-directed free play with others, especially others of multiple ages, is part of humanity’s evolved nest heritage. Other components of the evolved nest for young children that we are relating to well-being include breastfeeding, a welcoming social climate, positive touch and no negative touch, responsive care from several adult caregivers, nature immersion and connection, and routine healing practices.

In this study, we examined the effects of free play on vagal tone. Free play excludes organized sport activities or activities that adults direct. Instead, it refers to spontaneous, imaginative play that children invent together on the fly.

Animal studies show numerous effects of free play on neurobiological and social development. Over 1,200 genes are epigenetically (“turned on or off”) affected by play (Burghardt, 2005). In children, self-regulation systems are beneficially affected by play—delay of gratification (Cemore & Herwig, 2005) and emotion regulation (LaFreniere, 2011; Lindsey & Colwell, 2013). Executive functions are also facilitated by play (Thibodeau et al., 2016).

Our study was the first to examine and demonstrate the relation of play to adaptive physiology.

Adaptive physiological systems are part of a healthy personhood. Adaptive means that the body is able to adjust to the situation at hand—raising heart rate under challenge or decreasing heart rate when in a relaxing situation. Play facilitates the growth of an adaptive physiology.

We measured adaptive physiology with respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), the flexible responsiveness or adaptability of the vagus nerve (the 10th cranial nerve that innervates the major organs of the body). As part of the parasympathetic system, the vagus nerve inhibits the sympathetic nervous system’s threat-defensive systems (flight, fight, freeze). We refer to a vagus nerve response as “vagal tone.” Healthy vagal tone is associated with positive emotions and executive functions.

RSA is calculated by measuring how heart rate and breathing covary in situations of calm and situations of stress. Tonic vagal tone is measured at a single timepoint during relaxing situations, a baseline situation. Phasic vagal tone is measured across conditions—nonstressful to stressful and stressful back to nonstressful. Phasic vagal tone captures how adaptive the vagal tone of an individual is.

Our participants were mother-child dyads who were part of a longitudinal study. They came to the laboratory when the children were about five years old. There were 78 pairs with complete data.

To obtain a proxy for the children’s play experience generally, mothers completed a questionnaire about their child’s recent experience of the evolved nest (Evolved Developmental Niche Report; Narvaez et al., 2019). The play score was derived from two questions: In the past week, how much did the child play actively and freely with other children outside (play organized by the children; not organized activities)? and How much did the child play actively and freely with other children inside (play organized by the children, not organized activities and not passive watching).

Effects of marital dispute, divorce on children

Effects of marital dispute, divorce on children

Few would dispute that the different relationships that exist within a family affect the other members of the family as well. The most important relationship in this dynamic is that of parents and its effect on children. The quality of these relationships can affect children’s emotional, cognitive and physical development and can imprint on their mental health as an adult as well.

No relationship is free from turmoil. Conflicts and turmoil help individuals build and grow their relationships. It is a mistake to believe that children are unaware when parents argue behind closed bedroom doors. Children are more receptive to their parents’ emotions than we give them credit for.

Marital dispute or conflict has various dimensions that can determine the kind of effect it can create on the children like frequency, intensity, content, and resolution. Cummings classified marital conflicts as destructive and constructive. Constructive arguments involve a healthy argument between parents that ends in a resolution of the matter.

While constructive arguments can benefit children in learning conflict resolution, destructive conflicts can expose the child to further problematic parental interactions.

Destructive arguments consist of verbal aggression like name-calling, insults, threats of abandonment or physical aggression like hitting and pushing, or silent tactics like avoidance or sulking and withdrawing. When parental conflicts are such, children are collateral damage as they threaten the perceived intactness of the family. Conflicts that are hostile and heated can be overwhelming for children and being raised in such environments can impact their ability to form meaningful relationships and their belief in love and security.

From as early as the 1930s, researchers have recognized that disputes between parents have potentially debilitating effects on children’s development. While most children are exposed to periodic conflicts, intense, frequent, and poorly resolved conflicts are indicated to be very harmful.

A child continuously learns from their environment ever since birth. They learn most from their parents and their relationships. They undergo various physical, social, and emotional changes in life that are dependent on the nature of the relationships that surround them.

Marital conflict is a significant source of stress for children of all ages. These influences can be direct or indirect eliciting unhealthy internalized or externalized behavior in children.

Research indicates that during infancy, exposure to distress can result in hampered physical growth and psycho-social withdrawal. Young children may express fear, anxiety, anger, and sadness by displaying overt behavior like being non-compliant or being aggressive in school and among peers. They may also have trouble sleeping and communicating their feelings to their parents and act socially withdrawn. Conflicts during adolescence can result in decreased self-esteem, isolation, and delinquency.

Children often feel emotionally insecure in the family when they see their parents arguing. As a result, they may act out, or […]

DESR: Why Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation is Central to ADHD (and Largely Overlooked)

DESR: Why Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation is Central to ADHD (and Largely Overlooked)

Deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR) is a relatively new term used to describe the problem of impulsive emotion coupled with emotional self-regulation difficulties long associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). DESR may be new to the ADHD lexicon, however I argue that it is a core and commonly overlooked component of the disorder — and one that can help predict a patient’s impairments, and even improve diagnostic and treatment practices.1

Emotional dysregulation is noticeably missing from diagnostic criteria for ADHD. However, most patients and experts recognize that it is central to the disorder2. DESR, a manifestation of emotional dysregulation, specifically refers to deficiencies with these four components of emotional self-regulation3:

  • Ability to inhibit inappropriate behavior triggered by strong emotions. I argue that this emotional impulsiveness (EI) is an aspect of poor inhibition associated with ADHD that is illustrated by low frustration tolerance, impatience, being quick to anger, aggression, greater emotional excitability, and other negative reactions, all of which are related to the impulsivity dimension of the disorder
  • Ability to self-soothe and down-regulate a strong emotion to reduce its severity
  • Ability to refocus attention from emotionally provocative events
  • Ability to organize or substitute more moderate, healthier emotional responses in the service of goals and long-term welfare

To understand the role of EI and DESR in ADHD is to acknowledge the prominent role of emotional control difficulties in the disorder’s appearance and outlook, including understanding the following:

  • Why these issues are prevalent in individuals with ADHD
  • Why major comorbid disorders often develop as a result of these challenges
  • The major life impairments not adequately explained by traditional symptoms of ADHD

A wealth of compelling evidence — from ADHD’s clinical conceptualization over time to neuroanatomical and psychological research — clearly shows that EI and DESR are key components of ADHD and should be incorporated into the disorder’s diagnostic criteria and treatment practices.

EI and DESR: Evidence of Its ADHD Ties

1. EI and DESR in Historical Concepts of ADHD

Conceptualizations of ADHD have included emotional control problems for centuries. One of the earliest references to attention disorder in western medical literature4, a textbook written by German physician Melchior Adam Weikard in 1770, characterizes those who have a “lack of attention” as “unwary,” “flighty,” “careless,” mercurial,” and “bacchanal.”

EI and DESR through history4:

Supporting a Child in the Five Areas of Emotional Intelligence

Supporting a Child in the Five Areas of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others. Its development is distinct from the development of academic intelligence and a child can benefit from the positive impact on success and wellbeing that it can provide. A child experiencing some of the less helpful characteristics common in high learning potential children, such as the tendency towards perfectionism, social challenges, or worry and anxiety, could benefit greatly from the mitigating effect of the development of their emotional intelligence. In our blog Emotional Intelligence and High Learning Potential we looked at what emotional intelligence is and its impact on children with high learning potential. In this article we look in more detail at the five key skill areas identified as constituting emotional intelligence by psychologist Dr Daniel Goleman:

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to recognise your own emotions (and how they affect not just yourself but others around you).
  2. Self-regulation: the ability to remain in control of your actions, whatever emotions you may be feeling.
  3. Motivation: the ability to persevere in your pursuits, even in the face of difficulties.
  4. Empathy: the ability to understand and respond to the emotions of others.
  5. Social skills: the ability to use emotional intelligence in the context of interpersonal relationships.

Self-Awareness

Being able to understand their emotions: what they are, why they are experiencing them and then what to do in response to them, goes a long way in building up emotional intelligence. You can help your child by discussing your own emotions; by modelling emotionally intelligent behaviour, showing them that it is okay to have all different kinds of emotions and that we can respond to them in a positive manner.

Talk to them about how you feel; about how they feel, and about both the big and the small emotions, in order to take the fear of the unknown out of the equation. This can be of immense help to a child who may previously have found it difficult to discuss their feelings. Modelling behaviour in this way can show them that the world does not end when we admit to our emotions; that, in fact, it becomes a whole lot easier to navigate once we do not fear our feelings. Validate their own emotions, and their intensity, and make such discussions so regular that the whole process becomes comfortable, normalised, almost automatic, and certainly significantly less scary.

If they are not comfortable vocalising their emotions, allow them to write them down or draw them. Perhaps make up some emotion cards so that your child can pick out the ones that they are feeling at that moment, or ask them: “If you were an animal, what would you be?”. Helping them to develop the confidence and the vocabulary to recognise, name and describe their emotions will help them to feel more in control, and they can begin to take ownership of them. From that point, they will be much more able to go on to choose appropriate ways forward. For more support in helping them to develop their emotional literacy, see our advice sheet PA616 Describing Feelings

It is also only with the development of such self-awareness that a child can go on to develop another of the key skills of emotional intelligence: empathy. From the stepping stone of being able to recognise their own emotions they will be able to move on to identifying the emotions of others.

How to Teach Older Students Social-Emotional Skills? Try Civics

How to Teach Older Students Social-Emotional Skills? Try Civics

Civic engagement is the oil that keeps the gears of democracy working. But what exactly are the behaviors of an engaged citizen?

Understanding other points of view, solving problems collaboratively, and building relationship skills may all come to mind.

For many educators, those skills will sound familiar, because they’re many of the same taught through social-emotional learning.

Not only are the skills cultivated through social-emotional learning the same behaviors that power civic engagement, but the reverse is also true: Civic engagement can be a meaningful way to teach and reinforce social and emotional skills.

That’s especially true for middle and high schoolers who are searching for their place in their communities and the world and might not otherwise connect with traditional social-emotional lessons, said Jenna Ryall, the director of Civics for All, an initiative of the New York City department of education to promote civic engagement in the city’s schools.

“[Civics] is relatable. It’s a practical application of social-emotional learning,” she said. “I think that is the best way to teach social-emotional learning—if [students] can see how it’s applied beyond the classroom walls, if they can see how it’s improving their interpersonal skills, if they can see how it’s allowing them the opportunity of using their voice, if they can see the results of co-creating the school community with the adults around them and the respect they are getting as a co-creator of those things.”

Civic engagement is much more expansive than just voting. It includes volunteering, advocacy, and really anything to do with people coming together to solve their communities’ problems, including those in school communities.

A democracy can’t function properly without the participation of its people, and school is the perfect place for students to learn these skills, dispositions, and habits, said Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow and the co-director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. In many parts of the country, schools may be the only avenue for students to develop their civic muscle.

Researchers estimate that 30 percent of urban youth and 60 percent of rural youth live in what’s been described as “civic deserts,” said Winthrop. These are communities where there are few resources or opportunities—such as youth programming, culture and arts groups, and religious congregations—for youth to be civically active.

Nationally, civic engagement has been on the decline for years.

“I am very worried about evaporating civic disposition among large swaths of the adult population and I’m worried about what effect that is having on children,” said Winthrop. “No one is modeling this to them.”

One doesn’t have to look any further than a number of recent school board meetings across the country where community members have made death threats to board members over masking policies, to see the value of well-developed social-emotional skills to civic life.

Giving students a say in how schools are run and opportunities to work together to solve problems are ways that schools can help students hone their social, emotional, and civic skills.

Here’s what to do when your children say school is boring

In my elementary school days, I’d set up my teddy bears and teach them how to read. I’d make up math tests for the My Little Ponies and quiz them with flashcards. When friends came over, we’d write stories and take turns being the teacher, grading them.

It wasn’t until middle school that I realized a large group of my peers thought school was boring and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

My love of school evolved into my career as a school psychologist. I tend to work with youngsters who tell me they hate school and find it boring. Students are referred to me when they are underachieving or struggling, and my job is to figure out why.

My love of school evolved into my career as a school psychologist. I tend to work with youngsters who tell me they hate school and find it boring. Students are referred to me when they are underachieving or struggling, and my job is to figure out why.

One of the first activities I do with students is try to find out how they think and feel about school, and themselves as learners. I provide the beginning of a sentence, and ask them to complete it with the first thing that comes to mind:

Many of the students who are struggling will say the thing they love is “nothing,” the thing they hate is “everything” and school is “boring.”

Some well-meaning adults may have an instinct to dismiss the claim, saying boredom is common and to be expected at school. They may try to normalize that boredom is something that is just part of school and life — some things will be boring from time to time.

I’ve learned that “boring” means something very different to each student. “Boring” is the tip of the iceberg — it’s what the student says on the surface, but the underlying reasons can be more complex.

A recent study by Michael Furlong and his colleagues sheds some light on what students may actually mean when they report boredom at school. Instead of viewing boredom as being limited to a particular subject or classroom, they studied students who report broader unfavorable school attitudes, or a “School Boredom Mindset.”

The researchers found that 1 in 8 middle and high school students expressed strong negative views of school, describing it as boring and of low value.

According to their review of the literature, school boredom may be a signal of internal mindsets, external situations or a deeper emotional challenge:

  • Trouble with the subject matter or task demands (being over-challenged)
  • A need for more or new sources of stimulation (being under-challenged)
  • Limited interest or motivation in a particular subject
  • A mismatch between a student’s ability and the skill required to complete a task
  • A low perceived value of what is being taught
  • Disengagement and dissatisfaction
  • Helplessness and sadness
  • Depression, anxiety, apathy

The researchers also draw a distinction between experiences of boredom being a temporary state — this class/subject/situation is boring. Or a more stable trait — a general pattern of experiencing boredom in school and in life.

Social Emotional Learning in Schools for an Enriched Learning Environment

Social Emotional Learning in Schools for an Enriched Learning Environment

The current times call for a need to envision education with the demands of the present situation and for that very reason we must make changes to adapt well. The society we live in is constantly evolving and for the ever-changing world we also require education that garners tools that helps students to be not only academically excellent but also compassionate, responsible towards others and themselves. For this, we need to add something in the education system, that is, social-emotional learning. As of now, education is missing SEL which is a highly sensitive part of the system. Research in SEL shows that focusing on social and emotional aspects of children also helps in developing other academic skills from the early years of their life. Also, we need to take into account that both academic as well as emotional intelligence plays a huge role when we talk about education for the whole child.

Even The New Education Policy recognises the importance of Social-Emotional Learning for holistic development of children from early childhood. “Based on the developments that have taken place in the world of cognitive science, there is now deep engagement with the idea that these social and emotional competencies must be acquired by all learners and that all learners should become more academically, socially and emotionally competent”. (National Education Policy, 2019)

Social-Emotional Learning is a new way of looking at education, where students develop skills to be intellectually intelligent as well as grow to be kinder, compassionate, and responsible citizens of the society.

Here, we will try to understand what SEL is, why it is needed in schools, and some applications.

What is SEL?

As we break down each term separately, we could say that it is “an approach of learning that deals with society (Social/Outward) and with oneself (Emotional/Inward).” Maurice J Ellias stated, “Social-emotional skills, or ‘emotional intelligence’, is the name given to the set of abilities that allows students to work with others, learn effectively, and serve essential roles in their families, communities and places of work.” (The International Academy of Education, 2003). SEL is a process where children learn self-awareness, management, empathy, responsible decision making, etc.

SEL instructions are provided in schools to students by incorporating it through curriculum, activities, games, play, etc. This cultivates a sense of belongingness, caring, compassion towards each other and also with themselves. Social Emotional Learning provides an enriching environment and empowers students to be kinder, compassionate, and resilient not only for today but also for the unpredictable future. These skills equip children of today with better and positive interventions for tomorrow.

We can also say that SEL is more than a course or a subject. It is not something which is taught once and our work is finished. SEL is a life goal, it is continuous and ever changing.

School, Content, and Pedagogy

What we have seen till now is that curriculum, the content which is taught in schools primarily focus on academic excellence and social and emotional learning takes a back seat. Then, we say “Education is for a whole child”. When we talk about the whole child, why do we only focus academically? As we know that the traditional teaching model in schools is not of today but was designed many years ago as per the needs of that time. The present situation requires a change in the system. Which could be met when children not only excel academically but also socially and emotionally.

Is it OK to step in when your child is having a dispute?

Is it OK to step in when your child is having a dispute?

Teacher, friendship expert and founder of a social-emotional wellbeing program for kids, Dana Kerford, explains the desire of parents to become involved usually stems from good intentions.

“That love you feel for your child is raw and visceral,” she says.

“But the second you find out [your child is in pain and] the pain came from another child, that sweet, warm mother hen morphs into Mama Bear.

“What once was warmth and compassion is now anger.”

And while emotions can run strong, Ms Kerford says it is important (in the majority of cases) to try not get involved in your child’s dispute for a whole host of reasons. Here, she outlines five of them.

Your kids fighting might give you a headache, but it can give them important life skills. Experts give tips on what you can do and whether you should do anything at all.

Ms Kerford says that often “involving the other child’s parent is humiliating, embarrassing, and erodes trust” between the parent and child.

2. You can’t view the situation or your child objectively

As a parent, “no matter how hard you try to see things from all perspectives, you will naturally have a bias towards your own child,” Ms Kerford says.

“You not only love your child; you also have a very large sample size of their behaviour to draw conclusions.”

3. Involvement can be charged by emotions

“When we picture anything negative happening to our child, we immediately experience an innate, sometimes even physical reaction,” Ms Kerford says.

While this is normal, it isn’t always helpful, she explains.

4. Your perspective is different than your child

“What’s huge to you might be small for them or vice-versa,” she says.

While you may think it warrants interception, your child may have moved past the issue by the next day.

5. It makes things unnecessarily awkward between you and that parent

“In the one out of 10 times where the conversation seems to go relatively well, even if both parents are well-meaning, it is often the beginning of the end,” she says.

“Your relationship with that parent will naturally feel awkward and one or both of you will come away feeling defensive,” something Ms Kerford says is instinctive.

This awkwardness and sense of discomfort became the reality for Amanda after she was contacted by Carly. She also says that she felt a prevalent bias by the other mother to her son.

“Are You Not Entertained?”

“Are You Not Entertained?”

In intimidating social situations like dates or parties, I feel most at ease when I can make someone laugh. Telling a joke or a silly story for a few chuckles helps me to relax — and usually helps loosen up the conversation.

I often use humor as an inclusive, warm tool to assess a new social audience. You can tell a lot about a person by what makes them laugh — or what doesn’t.

But recently it dawned on me that I also use humor as a shield — usually when I’m feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable, or a little threatened. When a conversation or a situation becomes overwhelming or uncomfortable, some people with ADHD retreat; I make impulsive jokes instead (for example, I made the nurse shake with laughter during my last blood test, much to my detriment). Sometimes, it gets me out of trouble and other times it buries me deeper in my ADHD hole.

You see, I can’t tell the difference between “fake laughter” and the real stuff. Since Brits communicate almost exclusively in subtext that often passes right by me undetected, things can get a bit tricky. These days, though, people aren’t sure what’s “OK” to laugh at in public and it can be hard to tell what’s authentically inappropriate. So I sometimes find myself coming across as a bit more cringey and awkward than I’d like to admit in the wrong circles.

As I work to gauge boundaries, it’s inevitable that I am going to cross the line and offend someone every now and then, especially if I’m getting carried away or becoming too comfortable too quickly, or they can’t quite put their finger on me. In those situations, the nerves start up and I’m more likely to accidentally blurt out something inappropriate (shocker!). Then I find myself reeling backward because the crowd’s eyes don’t match their smiles, or their glances go sideways around the group. If I can’t read someone or if I sense that something’s going wrong, I’ll ask or joke that I’m digging a hole. That doesn’t always go brilliantly either.

How Can You Get to Know Me If I Never Stop Joking?

I recently had a pre-date call with a very tightly strung feminist activist with a freight train’s worth of emotional baggage and more red flags than Chinese New Year bunting. I actually really liked her. She was fascinating, intelligent, and insightful. She had lived some hard experiences that piqued my interest. I felt we had a lot in common and I could learn from her perspective. Over the course of a 10-hour video conversation, we shared all sorts of things, including ADHD (she believes we like to set fires!). In the process of that often emotional encounter, we both became very vulnerable and opened up too much, too fast.

As the conversation got increasingly intense and the hour ever later (4am on a school night!), I made a few quips that were a bit edgy and funnier in my head than they were out loud. When I got that judge-y look back instead of a giggle, it compounded that “iceberg ahead” feeling, so I teased her and told her to lower her eyebrow.

The next morning, she cancelled our date and told me I did this “check” 8 times (she was counting!). I came across to her like I was insecure and demanding that she react with laughter – I was “one of those men who isn’t as funny as you think you are.”

11 Activities and Exercises to Induce a Flow State (+ 6 Examples)

11 Activities and Exercises to Induce a Flow State (+ 6 Examples)

With many things in life ostensibly out of our control, it is easy to consider our fate as being determined by external factors.

However, consider times when instead of being driven by extraneous forces, you have felt in complete control of your actions – the master of your destiny!

The positive emotions that accompany such experiences can create such a sense of escapism, exhilaration, and enjoyment that it becomes a marker for how life can be.

This is what is meant by optimal experience or flow state – the subjective state in which a person functions at his or her fullest capacity with their attention so focused on a task, that factors such as fatigue and boredom do not interfere; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will participate for the sheer sake of doing it (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

Flow state is losing yourself in the moment; when you find your abilities are well matched to an activity, the world around you quietens and you may find yourself achieving things you only dreamt to be possible.

What is a Flow State?

Flow state encapsulates the emotions experienced when an activity is going favorably – have you ever felt ‘in the flow’ or ‘in the zone’?

Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi (2005) conducted interviews with rock climbers, chess players, athletes, and artists in order to address the question of why people perform time-consuming or difficult tasks for which they receive no apparent extrinsic rewards.

The study concluded that respondents reported a similar subjective experience, one they enjoyed so much that they were willing to go to great lengths to experience it again – several respondents described a ‘current’ (or flow) that carried them along effortlessly throughout the activity.

The defining feature of flow state is the intense experiential involvement in moment-to-moment activity; it can only be achieved on the basis of an individuals’ personal effort and creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

While research has primarily focused on the experience of flow within structured leisure activities such as sports, education and artistic pursuits (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005), it is important to recognize its applicability to many other aspects of life including a route to well-being.

Fritz and Avsec (2007) looked at the relationship between dispositional aspects of experiencing flow and the subjective well-being of music students. Their findings confirmed that experiencing flow is an important predictor of subjective emotional well-being. Flow plays an important role in subjective well-being (Myers & Diener, 1995) and in the relationship between well-being and healthy aging (Ryff, Singer, & Dienberg Love, 2004).

Payne, Jackson, Noh, and Stine-Morrow (2011) explored the nature of flow in older adults and its role in cognitive aging. Their research indicated that older adults have the capacity to experience flow when cognitive capacity and intellectual demands are in synch and, as such, may be an important factor for theories of cognitive optimization, health recommendations, and programs of lifelong education.

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{{time(finishingCount)}}
{{trans(`You have no camera installed on your device or the device is currently being used by other application`)}}
{{trans(`Please try visiting this page with a valid SSL certificate`)}}
{{trans(`You can record up to %s minutes, don't worry you will review your video before sending`, time(preference.limits))}}
{{trans('Seconds')}}
{{trans(`You can record up to %s minutes, don't worry you will review your video before sending`, time(preference.limits))}}
{{trans('Uploading video...')}}
{{send.message}}

{{trans('Upload video')}}

{{trans('Drag your files here or click in this area')}}
{{uploader.file}} {{uploader.size}} x