Month: August 2019

How to Help Teens Build Their Self-Worth

Avoiding social comparisons that harm our sense of self-worth has become more difficult than ever with the growing culture of social media. Learn how to help your teens build their self-worth with key insights based on the latest scientific research. 

“I’ll never be able to do that.”

“I’m not pretty like them.”

“I’m not good enough.” 

Being a teen has always been challenging. 

There’s school work, drastic physical and chemical changes, social pressure, and the urge to compare ourselves to others, be it through our grades, intelligence, physical attributes, or other. 

But according to new insights, it’s growing even more challenging than ever before. 

The rise of social media and the effects on teen self-image

Over the past 25 years, rates of anxiety and depression have increased by a startling 70%.

And those rates continue to climb, with social media shouldering much of that blame in recent years.

According to recent research, college students across the U.S., U.K., and Canada are becoming more consumed with perfectionism, with social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat largely contributing to the perpetuation of unrealistic standards that cause it.

This, in addition to the atypical challenges of simply being a teen in grade school, means teens are under more pressure than ever. 

Fortunately, there has also been a number of powerful insights from similar research, offering knowledge into how you can help your teen manage those challenges and build their sense of self-worth in the process. 

Here are some ways to help your teens build their self-worth. 

1. Help them obtain mastery curve experiences

Social scrutiny is a big part of teen life, and knowing how to navigate those feelings of insecurity and “not-good-enough” self-talk is crucial. 

In an interview with Greater Good, neuroscientist Ron Dahl says that while our self-worth is shaped partly by what people tell us, it’s shaped more by our experiences. Specifically, our experience of feeling competent (or not). 

As parents, we often make the mistake of parenting exclusively through words. In other words, we like to talk at them a lot and expect them to take action on what we say.

But as in all things in life, kids learn more from the actual example we set and from their own personal experiences. 

You might tell your child that they’re smart, but if they fail their next math test they’ll place much more weight on that experience rather than your words.

To combat this, Dahl suggests encouraging mastery curve experiences. A mastery curve is where your child works at something, struggles (and sometimes might even fail), but gets better and better over time. 

How to Help Teens Build Their Self-Worth

A mastery curve creates one of the most solid supports for adolescents,” says Dahl. “And it’s rewarding, too. It’s part of the reason why kids who won’t spend three hours a day doing anything else will spend 14 hours a day playing video games.”

As a parent, it’s your job to encourage them when they make positive strides as those are key moments when your reinforcement can do wonders (as opposed to being discouraging and telling them what they did wrong or how they could do better). 

2. Encourage their unique talents (and show them the truth about skill development and the brain)

Everyone has natural talents and strengths, though what those things are might not be immediately clear to your child. 

In a world which encourages social comparison more than ever before, it’s easy for teens to look around themselves and think, “I’m not as smart as them,” “I’m not as good of an athlete,” or, “I’m just not that talented.”

But your teen has unique strengths and talents, they just need to find them. And doing so can help show them that they’re not lacking, just different. Maybe they’re not a great athlete or they’re socially awkward, but they could be incredibly resourceful, brave, or kind, all highly valuable attributes. 

Adolescent researcher Susan Harter explains in her bookHow to Help Teens Build Their Self-Worth, The Construction of the Self, that the concept we have of ourselves, which makes up our sense of self-worth, really breaks down to 8 major areas, with a 9th global self-concept that those areas form into:

  1. Scholastic competence
  2. Social competence
  3. Athletic competence
  4. Physical competence
  5. Job competence
  6. Romantic appeal
  7. Behavioral conduct
  8. Close friendship

In addition to this, each area has some 4-5 different sub-skills. For instance, one teen might consider themselves great at making friends but bad at getting their peers to accept them, each being one of five different sub-skills under social competence:

As a parent, you need to encourage exploration early and get them involved in different kinds of activities so they can find not only what they enjoy doing (which is an important factor in developing skill, which we’ll talk about later) but what they’re naturally skilled at. This is also important so that you might be able to identify those areas they’re less confident in and help them to build confidence in those areas.

Alternative: Use the VIA Character Survey

Alternatively, something like the VIA character survey is a great way of finding out more about your child’s strengths, which tests for 24 character attributes to help identify those natural strengths. 

How to Help Teens Build Their Self-Worth

Pay attention not only to basic activities such as drawing, mathematics, and writing but also to skills such as focus, creativity, and resourcefulness, all of which could be special valuable strengths and skills that your child might have. 

The truth about talent and skill development

While finding your child’s natural strengths and talents is important, it’s also important not to convince them it’s all about what they’re naturally good at. 

It’s a wide-spread misconception, and an easy one to fall into, that most things are based solely on talent. If you don’t “have it”, you just don’t.

You’re good at math or you’re not good at math. You’re an athlete or you’re not. Or you’re smart or you’re not. 

There’s only one problem with this: it’s not true. 

Years of scientific research in various fields– especially neuroscience– has proven that the brain can be developed like a muscle

The principles of neuroplasticity have shown that what we once believed were static abilities aren’t static at all but can be developed through practice. You can, quite literally, become more intelligent through practice.

Going beyond, “I’m just not smart enough”

For example, the old idea that some are good at math and others not has been thoroughly debunked. Research into neuroplasticity has shown that everyone is capable of learning math at a high level through adequate work: 

Think about what your own school experience was like, especially if you had a hard time in math or another subject. Everyone used to think that you were either good at math or not. 

That idea sticks with kids and makes them think that they’re inadequate, as if they’re not as good as other kids; like they’re lacking something. 

Chances are, your child may be struggling with something simply because they haven’t had enough practice. By explaining to your teen how the brain works and giving them the tools to improve, you can remove those blocks and show them that they’re not lacking but that some things simply take practice– and everything can be learned. 

3. Find age-relevant social support

You play a big role in your child’s support structure. However, it’s not always enough or ideal. 

High school is tough, and other kids aren’t always the nicest. Bullying is as big a problem as ever and cyber-bullying is unfortunately on the rise. 

You can be their rock at home, but if they don’t have anyone they can communicate with or relate to at school, they’re going to feel alone and unsupported. 

When interviewed by Empowering Parents, Josh Shipp, “The Teen Whisperer”, says that an important part of what helped him as a teen was finding somewhere he belonged outside the classroom where he could not only communicate with but relate to other kids. 

“I think a turning point was when I actively began to find places where I could belong at school,” says Shipp. “Eventually, I found a few activities that I felt I could be good at, where I could relate to the other kids. That gave me an incredible sense of self–esteem. School became not just a place for academics and books, but it was also a place where I could belong in something beyond the classroom.”

Josh says it’s difficult for other kids to make friends in class because it isn’t an environment that allows for free socializing. Teachers need their classrooms to be quiet and orderly, so often the only conversing that happens is by kids who already know one another. 

“It’s in extracurricular activities where your child can get to know other kids,” he continued. “Something parents can do is to encourage their kids to try out a bunch of new things. When teens find something they like to do, it helps them begin to feel like they have a group or a community at school—which then leads to being picked on less.”

Don’t fight human conditioning– use it to help build a sense of belonging and confidence

We’re hard-wired from thousands of years of conditioning to want to belong. During early human history, to be separated from the tribe literally meant death. As a result, we’ve developed strong emotional and psychological triggers to feeling isolated from the group. 

Instead of fighting this impulse, by helping your teens find others whom they relate to– a similar interest such as sports, art, the outdoors, science, literature or film, or an aspect of pop culture being good places to start– you help broaden their support structure.

It also gives them a strong reference point for bullying as well. Shipp says, “Think of it this way: even if three or four kids at school like your child and have his back, when he’s teased he’ll be able to say, “Who cares? Those other kids are jerks anyway.” 

4. Avoid social comparisons and teach them the power of loving themselves

It’s harder than ever to avoid the social comparison trap, with social platforms like Instagram encouraging teens to construct a “fake” life to look better in front of their peers. 

When they scroll through social, they often see kids their age who seem to have better things than them– who are smarter, prettier, more fun, a desirable boyfriend or girlfriend, lots of friends, a car or money, the list goes on, as seen in this video from the RSPH:

Social encourages social comparison and makes its perceived importance greater than ever– and can make your teen feel inadequate as a result. But it’s these kinds of comparisons that are poison to self-worth and confidence.

In a survey of over 1,500 teens, the RSPH found that Instagram, followed by Snapchat, are rated the worst by teens for mental health. RSPH CEO Shirley Cramer said, “It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

Teach your teens to love themselves for who they are

As people, we’re naturally inclined to worry about what others think of us. It’s a natural defense mechanism in line with what we talked about earlier. 

To not be accepted, to be removed from the tribe, literally meant death in early human history when you depended upon the group to survive. As a result, we have a strong psychological need to feel accepted by our peers. 

Teach your child– and show them through your own example– the importance of loving who they are. Teach them that what they’re feeling is something everyone feels. We all secretly feel inadequate in our own way at some point in our life, but few of us choose to reveal it (even those kids they think are perfect).

But they have unique talents, skills, traits, and beauty which is all their own. Work to reduce media and other influences that encourage those kinds of social comparisons and show them examples of people appreciating themselves who look different and do different things. 

The more you can do this, the more their mind will be open to the truth: that their perception of the world and the reality that exists within each person’s mind are quite different things– and that they’re unique and worthy without having to change anything about themselves.

The Troubling Effects of Parents’ Screen Use on Children – And What To Do About It

Have you ever unconsciously ignored your child’s demands for attention because you were engrossed by something on your phone?

Or felt like you weren’t really present because you were reacting to multiple interruptions from emails or texts?

This is now commonly referred to as “technoference” by social scientists, and its negative effects are becoming more apparent with each new study.

But before you beat yourself up, we’re not here to judge.

Instead, we want to open up a new conversation about why managing parents’ screen time is just as important as managing kids’ screen time. And then help you break the smartphone addiction.

Not only because it sets a good example, but because appropriate technology use by parents can keep kids safer, improve their cognitive development, build a stronger bond, and reduce misbehavior.

Let’s begin by explaining some of the dangers and then dive into exactly what you can do as a parent. Continue reading The Troubling Effects of Parents’ Screen Use on Children – And What To Do About It

3 Lessons from Waylon Lewis on the Convergence of Politics, Spirituality, and Technology

Are spirituality and politics really so different?

Is sitting in meditation and standing up to take responsibility for the condition of the world part of the same practice? Can they– or should they– be separate?

And is mindfulness practice just about becoming more aware of your own thoughts and actions in daily life, or something much more? 

For roughly 17 years, Elephant Journal founder Waylon Lewis has been an advocate for social responsibility and mindful living.

Nowadays, when you hear the word mindfulness, it’s almost strictly in the context of mindfulness meditation. Even the word ‘mindful’ is only used in context to the sensory awareness you develop through that practice (or just the effort to become more aware outside of that practice).

But in Buddhist tradition (to which Lewis hails as, in his own words, a “1st generation American Buddhist Dharma Brat”), mindfulness has long been about much more than just the practice of mindful breathing that’s become so popular in the West over the last decade. 

According to Waylon’s bio, his aim is to “bring the good news re: ‘the mindful life’ beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care.” And that mindful life– something the world needs much more of now than ever– is all about social responsibility, political participation, and compassion. 

3 Lessons from Waylon Lewis on the Convergence of Politics, Spirituality, and Technology

Recently featured on the TFM podcast, episode 20, Lewis talked with TFM founder Robert Plotkin about everything from social responsibility to the role that mindfulness practice plays in connection with politics and global issues, and how we can use technology for the greater good without letting it control us. 

These are 3 lessons from entrepreneur and Elephant Journal founder Waylon Lewis:

1. Mindfulness is about more than just meditation

For nearly two decades, Elephant Magazine, now Elephant Journal, has been a source for opinions and information on mindful living. 

Elephant has been voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, but Lewis says the publication is about much more than just that. 

From love and relationships to spirituality, health and wellness, Yoga, green, and politics, Elephant covers the gamut on topics which center around one single idea: mindful living.

How does all this connect to mindfulness practice? Social responsibility is a form of mindfulness because it’s about stretching beyond yourself to the world at large, developing compassion for others, and realizing that you have a role to play in how all this turns out.

In a world which is more connected than ever as a result of the Internet and, by extension, social media, it’s become more important than ever to not sit idly by and allow the events of the world unfold without at least making an effort to stay informed. 

Mindfulness practice isn’t just about your own stress and suffering but about better understanding how your actions affect the world around you. 

When you see mindfulness practice in this way, you become aware of how interdependent everything is and the role you have to play in trying to make things better. 

2. There is no separation between spirituality and politics

“If spirituality is just for naval gazing I don’t want any part of it.”

Elephant Journal is known for its unique stance on politics: they don’t shy away from it. 

Lewis says you can’t live mindfully and stay out of politics. It just doesn’t make sense.

“We’re actually about life, we’re about the world,” he says of Elephant’s stance on covering politics. “You can’t stay out of politics. Politics affect food, politics affect infrastructure, politics affect education, politics affect war, or peace, or equality. And we’re about all of these things.” 

It’s a common– and damaging– misconception that meditation is about “blissing out” or “emptying your mind”. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. When you sit down to meditate, you confront the issues you’re facing: your stress, your anxiety, your depression, heartbreak, sorrow, despair, jealousy, and anger. 

To sit and meditate is to dedicate yourself to figuring things out on the inside so that you can stand up and go about life more effectively on the outside. Waylon says he didn’t understand this at first when he was a kid.

“I grew up in the Buddhist community and when I was a teenager. I was busy playing video games or playing basketball or, you know, chasing after girls (pretty ineffectually). And I would walk into the meditation room and I’d see a hundred people meditating on a beautiful Vermont afternoon. And in my mind I’d be like, ‘what are you guys hiding from?’ Get out there and live; Carpe Diem.”

He continued: “What I learned later is that people actually are dealing with reality. Meditation is important. They’re sorting themselves out. You call meditation practice meditation practice for a reason. It’s practice for life. And if you’re not going to then get out there and be of service to the greater good than it’s just selfish, right?”

Lewis says that if spirituality is selfish, that’s the opposite of true spirituality. True spirituality is one in which you turn inward to sort yourself out so that you might turn outward and help others. 

In this way, there is no separation between spirituality and politics. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take a hard-line stance on a political issue, but it does mean that spiritual practice should naturally make you become politically active, at least in terms of informing yourself and voting when you have the opportunity. 

3. Discussing mindfulness online is inherently awkward– but important 

Waylon talked with Robert about the apparent contradiction in being an online publication about mindfulness and mindful living.

Lewis says, “There’s an inherent tension in being about mindfulness, living a mindful life, encouraging people to get outside and find their breath and all that kind of stuff and being online where 70% of our readers are reading on their phone while they’re on the toilet or walking and they really should be just, you know, looking at the trees and enjoying their life.” 

Elephant has at times been pegged as hypocritical for talking about mindful living online. But Lewis argues that’s exactly where discussions on mindfulness should be taking place.

“Well, you don’t want to talk about mindfulness to a bunch of monks on top of the Himalayas, right?” says Lewis. “You want to talk about mindfulness to crazy, speedy business people and college kids and parents. These are the people who need mindfulness and appreciate it the most.”

Mindfulness wasn’t just discovered. It’s been in the West for decades and, while recent scientific research sure has helped popularize it, that’s not the only reason it’s become a household term over the past few years. 

Now, more than ever we– as parents, students, and professionals– need to take steps to create balance by becoming more aware of our daily habits and how those habits impact our life. 

Technology and the pressures of modern life– and current events– are constantly pulling us this way and that and threaten to negatively impact our well-being. 

You need to be vigilant in not only balancing your technology use but changing how you use technology so that it becomes a tool that helps you live better.

Learn more about Waylon Lewis and Elephant Journal

Waylon Lewis is the founder of & host of the Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis

He’s been voted Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”. 

Check out his recent appearance on the TFM podcast (Episode 20).

His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available here.

Exploring Meditation Devices– Is the Muse Headband Right for You?

Every day, it seems there’s a new study touting the benefits of meditation. Experts say it can enhance your focus, reduce anxiety, increase self-awareness, and give you a sense of calm. The list goes on.

So, why isn’t everyone making time for this simple, free practice that can have such a positive impact on your life?

Well, it’s hard.

As anyone who’s tried to meditate knows, sitting quietly with only your thoughts is more difficult than it sounds. In our go-go-go culture of constant entertainment, pausing feels downright uncomfortable. It’s a step beyond boredom, as your mind searches wildly for the comfort of distraction from unpleasant thoughts.

Not only that, meditation often takes time to be noticeable in your daily life. For beginners, it’s tough to persist in your practice when you don’t see results.

Of course, there’s no shortage of books, classes, workshops, retreats, and meditation apps to help you get through these obstacles. And for many practitioners, they provide enough guidance and support to build a regular practice. 

But sometimes, it’s not enough. After all, no teacher can read your mind. 

Fortunately, meditation devices like the Muse headband are the closest thing to it. They provide biofeedback from your mind and body to help you stay on track. This speeds up the learning curve, helping meditators have a sense of purpose and progress, which translates into continued practice.

What is Muse?

The original Muse headband is a portable EEG (or electroencephalogram) that provides real-time feedback on your brain activity to help you improve your meditation practice. Muse 2 takes this one step further, adding sensors for your heart, body, and breath:

  • PPG + Pulse Oximetry to measure heart rate
  • Accelerometer to measure body movement
  • PPG + Gyroscope to measure breathing

Amazingly, these are all combined into a slim headband that you connect to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Muse, meditation devices
Muse shrinks down technology for the brain, breath, heart, and body into a simple headband with sensors that communicate with your Muse app via Bluetooth.

How does the Muse headband work?

Without getting too scientific, Muse 2 interprets the data from these multiple sensors and provides subtle prompts that guide you back to stillness. There are four distinct programs.

  • Mind Meditation – As your mind wanders, the soundscape goes from calm to stormy weather. 
  • Heart Meditation – You’ll hear your heartbeat played back in real-time as the sound of a rhythmic drum. 
  • Breath Meditation – When you pace your breath with the guiding tones, the sounds will harmonize.
  • Body Meditation – As your movement shifts, you’ll be gently nudged back to stillness with the sound of wind chimes.

For example, let’s say you select the mind meditation and your thoughts begin to drift. You’ll hear the winds pick up, signaling you to come back to the moment. As your mind calms, you’ll hear the sound of birds gently tweeting.

It provides both an immediate trigger and reward. 

Within the mind meditation, you can select your favorite immersive soundscape. Choose from rain forest, beach, city park, desert, or ambient.

How does Muse encourage continued practice?

After your meditation, you can see how you did through a series of graphs and charts in the Muse meditation app. To keep you motivated, Muse also gives you points, goals, challenges, and bonuses, along with helpful tips on how to improve future scores.

And, at the end of every Muse session, you can record how you feel and reflect on what came up for you during your meditation. If you don’t have time, you can simply choose an emoji to capture your mood. 

Muse, meditation devices
Adding an element of gaming and incentive to your meditation practice can help you stay motivated and on track.

What are people saying about Muse?

“Is all of this worth $250? Your mileage may vary, but to my mind (no pun intended) it absolutely is. Both Headspace and Calm offer lifetime subscriptions for $299, and they don’t give you useable data on your meditation practice.” – Chris Taylor, Mashable

“It’s hard to believe that such a small, simply-designed device can actually read your brain signals. But from my experience using it, I feel like I’ve actually been able to meditate.” – Lee Bell, Forbes

“I found that the device offers something a silent savasana and guided meditation could never: a nonjudgmental companion in your ear (a rain cloud, a wind chime, okay, even the loud tribal drum) that keeps you accountable before your mind wanders too far off. I felt a lot more focused during meditations and ultimately became calmer and sleepier if I used the Muse before bed.” – Lori Keong, New York Magazine

“The science behind Muse is pretty robust – the neurofeedback has been used in the mental health field for over a decade – and its tech has been used in neuroscience research.” Hugh Langley, Wareable

How can I buy Muse?

Are you intrigued by the possibilities of meditation devices? You can visit to purchase the original Muse or Muse 2. They offer a few options.

  • Muse 1 – The original Muse includes the EEG sensors, so you have access to the mind meditation. This version retails for $149. Although it’s a single headband, multiple users can link to their own Muse app to record sessions.
  • Muse 2 – This includes sensors to measure the brain, heart, breath, and movement, so you have access to the mind, heart, breath, and body meditations. It’s also a single headband, but for multiple users. This upgraded version costs $249.
  • Guided Meditations – You can also purchase 100+ Guided Meditations from renowned meditation instructors on topics like sleep, performance, stress, and more. After each meditation, you’ll receive a post-session report with your Muse data (brain activity) during that session. This is a monthly or annual subscription.
Woman using Muse, meditation devices

What does the future hold for meditation devices?

As this technology advances, we’re already seeing potential new applications emerge. Especially in conjunction with virtual reality. 

For example, Healium combines immersive technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, with biometrics monitoring like Muse. The visual meditation experience is powered by your own brain and heart rate, so as you move towards greater inner peace, the various brainwave patterns and changing heart rate moves alters the visuals. Imagine making flowers spontaneously grow or the sun shine more brightly with your mind!

It’s clear we’re on the cusp of some exciting, positive developments that will help more people enjoy the significant mental, emotional, and physical benefits of meditation.

Have you used Muse or similar meditation devices? We’d love to hear your experiences.

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

Sign up to receive a free, 5 minute guided meditation that helps you gain control over your smartphone, instead of being controlled by it. 

You will receive our free 5 minute meditation soon!