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Kathy Marshack News

Train Your Brain to be a Successful Entrepreneur

Monday, September 11, 2017


Entrepreneurs - your attitude is integral to your success so make these small, simple changes to literally rewire your brain to think positivelyWhen you think of training you might think of learning a new professional skill. Or you might think of a personal training regiment that whips your body into shape. But have you ever considered training your brain to be more positive?
 
To be a successful entrepreneur, you need a positive attitude. Is it really that important? Yes, here are a few key reasons:

  • Entrepreneurship is like a roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs, things that make you happy that turn right around and make you want to scream. Because of the constant changes and challenges that can arise, it is necessary to cultivate a positive attitude. It will keep you grounded and able to see beyond your current circumstances. Optimistic entrepreneurs are better at problem-solving and bouncing back from disappointment.

  • Your attitude rubs off on those you work with. If you are consistently negative, the people you work with will reflect back that attitude. In contrast, if you make the effort to have positive conversations in the workplace, your employees will follow suit. Happier, more positive employees make for better, more efficient and effective employees. It also contributes to a healthier work environment for everyone.

  • Clients can perceive what your attitude is. When you show a positive attitude about life and your product, customers will want to do business with you. This, of course, will lead your business to greater profitability and success.

  • Your attitude affects your day-to-day life. When you are positive, you feel in control and confident. You are motivated to take good care of your physical and mental health. These are the tools you need to perform at your best and make the most of your entrepreneurship.

What if you aren’t a naturally positive person? That’s okay, because with a little bit of effort you can literally change the structure of your brain to think more positively.
 
In your brain you have neural pathways that control your emotions. If your inclination is toward the negative, the neural pathways for negativity become stronger. It is like a muscle. It gets worked most often, so it becomes the strongest.
 
On the up side, your brain is capable of generating new pathways. So it’s possible to train the circuitry in your brain to promote positive responses. When you look for the good in life, you activate different neural pathways in your brain. Dopamine and serotonin production is increased, soothing and calming you.  The more you stimulate these circuits in your brain, the stronger they become. Positivity will become a more automatic response.
 
It doesn’t take much to rewire your brain this way. You can learn to be more positive by practicing simple skills that foster positivity. Some of these skills include:

  • Beginning each day with a positive thought. Simple, right? But it is very powerful. It will help you set the tone for your day and make the choice early on to think positively.

  • Practicing gratitude. Take note of the things each day that you are grateful for. Some of my clients find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal.

  • Doing good for others. If you focus on thinking about other people and working to make their life better, you think about your own problems and worries less. This, in turn, keeps you from dwelling on the negative and moves you to focus on the positive.

  • Living one moment at a time. Focus on the present and making that day the best it can be. The practice of mindfulness helps many of my clients to focus and see the good in their day.

Sometimes a negative attitude is a signal of something more serious. It could be that you’re suffering from depression or anxiety. Don’t put your mental health on the backburner. It may be time to consider enlisting the help of a trained professional. Please contact my office in Jantzen Beach for an appointment. If it works better with your busy schedule, I also offer online therapy.

How to Rewire Your Brain to Learn More Easily

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Keep your love of learning alive, even if you struggle with learning new concepts, by using this proven formula for fully engaging your brain in the processOne of my clients, a 10 year old boy, wanted to beat me at Scrabble. Secretly he'd started playing an online word game that he called "Scrabble on steroids." He didn't beat me last time, but he came darned close. His score jumped from an average of the low 50s, to 151! Furthermore, he knew the meaning of the words.

As a psychologist, I use a variety of less formal techniques such as playing board games with my young clients. My goal is to put them at ease and level the playing field so that they will open up about their problems. I had no idea that this child would develop an interest in words and in competing with me. By the way, he has shown disinterest in reading and is falling behind at school. We shall see if his new love of Scrabble portends improvements at school this fall. I hope so.

This just goes to show that, by sparking desire, any of us can improve the way that we learn. To further illustrate this, a recent New York Times article reports on how Dr. Oakley, co-creator of the popular course, “Learning How to Learn,” has helped more than a million students from 200 countries.

Dr. Oakley’s lessons are rich in metaphor, which she says helps get complex ideas across, because metaphors use the same neural circuits in the brain as the underlying concept does. It gives your brain a pattern to follow so you can understand the difficult concept more rapidly and easily.

Cognitive scientists show that your brain has two modes of thinking: task-positive networks (“focused” so you can concentrate) and default-mode networks (“diffuse” so you rest and let your brain make connections and attain insight).

To fully engage both modes, Dr. Oakley recommends you set a timer for 25 minutes of “focused” work, followed by a break for “diffuse” reflection. Use the break for taking your mind off the task. Listen to a song, take a walk, do anything that helps you relax. This allows your brain to subconsciously connect the new knowledge with what you already know.

Over time, we all create a mental library of well-practiced neural “chunks” (Dr. Oakley’s term for the patterns we impress into our brains). For example, we work hard to learn how to ride a bike or play a musical instrument, and once we know it, we don’t forget it. We can do it automatically.

You can build and connect new chunks on previous chunks, so your neural network of automatic patterns keep growing and expanding into more difficult information. For example, elementary math is the building block for Algebra and Calculus. With enough practice, they too can become a breeze for you.

We never want to lose our joy of learning because it contributes so much to our joy of living. If you’d like to learn about how to enhance your potential, consider scheduling an online NLP session with me. It’s an efficient technique for being more successful in your chosen endeavors. It eliminates the guesswork as it gives you a time-tested structure to follow for understanding emotions, goal setting, negotiating, problem solving, creativity and more.

Read more on my website: Gifted Adults and NLP.

Researchers Find Insomnia Isn’t Just a Night Disorder

Tuesday, September 05, 2017


Insomnia is not just a night disorder1 am… 3 am…. 3:47 am…. All night long you toss and turn, not getting a wink of sleep. Why can’t you fall asleep? You’re tired beyond tired. If you can just get through tomorrow, you’re bound to sleep better tomorrow night. Right? Not necessarily.

Do you think of insomnia as solely a night disorder?
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that. Contrary to this popular belief, scientists are finding that insomnia is a 24-hour condition. It’s not just your sleepless night causing you to have a bad day. It’s your day causing your sleepless night. It’s a loop that your brain gets into that needs to be broken.

Psychology Today has an informative article by Michael J. Breus Ph.D. on a number of recent studies on insomnia. Using EEG, researchers measured brain activity during wakeful, resting states, both with eyes open and eyes closed. They found that people with insomnia displayed:

  • Less powerful alpha-wave activity in the frontal and temporal lobes (with eyes open). Alpha waves indicate restfulness.
  • More powerful beta-wave activity throughout the brain (with eyes closed). Greater beta wave activity indicates hyper-arousal.

In a nutshell, daytime hyper-arousal of the brain carries over into nighttime, resulting in insomnia.

Scientists at the University of Michigan found that daytime alertness and anxiety were the only predictors for the use of prescription sleep medication. However, they also note that, “insomnia patients who used prescription sleep aids showed no significant improvement to their sleep at the one-year follow up compared to people with insomnia who didn’t take sleep medication.” And according to researchers at Penn State University, this 24-hour hyper-arousal can start at a young age.

Will easing your day-time anxiety help you overcome insomnia? It can certainly help. Many people have also found relief from CBT-I (Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia). It breaks the cycle by retraining your brain.

If you suffer from insomnia, check with your physician. If no physical causes can be found for your insomnia, it’s time to enlist the help of a mental health professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Do You Talk to Yourself Out Loud? Science Shows Why It’s a Good Idea

Monday, August 07, 2017


Do You Talk to Yourself Out Loud? Science Says That’s GoodHave you always thought that talking to yourself out loud means you’re going crazy? Well, science is showing that it’s actually a good way to see a situation more objectively.

Psychologists call talking to yourself out loud “external self-talk”. And it can take two basic forms: instructional self-talk (walking yourself through a process) or motivational self-talk (“I’ve got this. I can do this.”)

Interestingly, studies have shown that motivational self-talk works best if you refer to yourself in the second or third person (“You can do this. Insert-your-name, you’ve got this.”) It distances you further from the experience, enhances your self-control and lowers your anxiety more. As a result, it helps you to be more objective and less emotional. (Ethan Kross, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan has published a pdf of his findings. Click here to read it.)

A recent New York Times article gives further insight on how instructional self-talk benefits you. For one thing, it blocks out distractions so you can focus better. It also employs the feedback hypothesis, namely by hearing it out loud you can visualize the object, which makes your brain connect to its “file of information” on that object.

For example, in their experiments, they asked people to locate a specific item out of series of random items. Those that spoke the name of the object out loud located the object more accurately and quickly, because their brains retrieved the visual image of the object.

So, no, you’re not going crazy if you talk to yourself out loud. It’s a smart thing to do – with one caveat – make sure your self-talk is always positive and encouraging. Negative self-talk is very damaging. It can even change your brain chemistry.

When you’re controlled by habitually negative patterns of thinking, it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Does neuroscience fascinate you? Why not review some of my past articles. Simply type “Brain Science” into the Search Box on this page and enjoy!

How the Brain Encodes and Stores Facial Memories

Monday, July 31, 2017


Learn how your brain stores and encodes facial recognition so you’re able to recognize someone even if you haven’t seen each other for decades.You’ve been asked to identify a woman in a series of photographs. You haven’t seen her in years, but as a picture of a crowd flashes before your face, you exclaim, “Stop! Go back! I think I saw her!” Yes, you recognized her instantly. How is that possible?

There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times that sheds light on how the brain encodes and stores facial memories. Here are some of the highlights...

Two Caltech biologists, Le Chang and Doris Y. Tsao, experimented on macaque monkeys to see how the brain responds to facial images. (Their recognition system seems to be very similar to ours.) They found that:

● “The face recognition system consists of face cells grouped into patches of at least 10,000 each.

● There are six of these patches on each side of the brain, situated on the cortex, or surface, just behind the ear.

● When the image of a face hits the eye’s retina, it’s converted into electric signals.

● These signals pass through five or six sets of neurons and are processed at each stage before they reach the face cells.

● The face cells receive information about the shape, dimensions and features of a face.

● 50 such dimensions are required to identify a face.”

When a monkey looked at a face, the biologists were able to reconstruct the facial features, just by monitoring the pattern in which the monkey's face cells were firing. Take a look at the images in the New York Times article. It’s amazing how similar these reconstructed images are to the real ones.


The finding are, at this time unconfirmed in other labs. But this could be a monumental breakthrough. I’m excited to see if this will lead to new ways we can help those with ASD perceive facial expressions. That would be a fantastic discovery indeed!

If you’d like to learn more about how the autistic brain works, I provide online education specifically for families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). My focus is on applying neuroscience and psychology to improve your relationships. And if you have specific issues you need help with, you might qualify for online therapy as well. Contact my office and schedule a session.

What Scientists Are Learning About Exercise and Your Brain

Monday, July 17, 2017


Older couple riding bikesDo you exercise regularly? No doubt you’ve heard of all the benefits. Exercise is good for all kinds of things like lowering your risk of heart disease, helping you lose weight, and maintaining your overall health. It also helps you emotionally by releasing endorphins that help regulate your mood.
 
Exercise also helps protect your memory and thinking ability. How? By literally changing your brain!
 
Researchers have found that exercise can change the size of your brain. Regular exercise has been found to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that plays an important role in memory and learning. It does this via a process called neurogenesis, or the birth of new brain cells. Exercise can double or triple the number of new cells in the hippocampus. These new cells translate to a significantly better ability to learn new things and remember experiences.
 
A better memory and learning ability is beneficial for your life now, but it is also helpful over the long-term. In Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the hippocampus is one of the first parts of the brain to suffer damage. A larger hippocampus can help delay the symptoms of these diseases as you get older.
 
It is of note that research finds aerobic exercise to be the most beneficial form of exercise to boost the size of the hippocampus. This is exercise that gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and the sweat running. Resistance training and balance exercises did not produce the same results.
 
Exercise also helps you sleep better. A number of chronic physical and mental health problems are caused by insufficient sleep, one of which is poor memory. Your brain cleans up while you sleep. There are studies that show that during sleep, the space between brain cells enlarge, allowing toxins to flush out. This research suggests that not sleeping allows toxins to build up, possibly ultimately triggering brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
 
Have you noticed that your thinking ability is negatively affected when you are feeling stressed or anxious? Exercise is a huge help in improving your mood, and reducing stress and anxiety. When your stress levels are under control, your cognitive abilities greatly improve.
 
Hopefully you already have a healthy routine that incorporates regular exercise. The recommendation for exercise is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That is just 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Moderate exercise includes walking, swimming, biking, or a sport like tennis.
 
If you are having trouble motivating yourself to keep up an exercise routine, or even start one, then try getting your spouse or a friend involved. Ask them to go with you. It will hold you accountable and make the experience fun! Also, start small. Try a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood at first. Then add more time and distance.
 
Schedule exercise like you would a business meeting. You don’t cancel on your colleagues or clients, so don’t cancel on yourself. Make it a priority, and your brain will benefit!
 
Exercise is only one part of staying healthy and balanced. Make sure to sign-up for my newsletter, Enriching Your Life, to stay up-to-date on new findings that impact your health and wellness. Simply enter your information in the box on the left to start receiving your copy.

Read more on my website: Holistic Health.

Three Surprising Scientific Findings about Autism You Might Not Know…

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Every study on autism spectrum disorder is bringing us closer to understanding it, so here are some recent findings that you may not have heard of yet…There is a lot we don’t know about autism, but every study is bringing us closer to understanding its cause and the why it affects people so differently. In an effort to keep you up-to-date, here are some recent findings that you may not have heard of yet:

1. Scientific American reports that “autism and schizophrenia may be independent outcomes of the same genetic syndrome.”

Both conditions are associated with the deletion of a stretch of DNA on chromosome 22. Carrie Bearden, professor of psychiatry, biobehavioral sciences and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles found, “Up to 30 percent of individuals missing this region, called 22q11.2, develop a psychotic disorder (schizophrenia). Up to 50 percent are diagnosed with autism.” (Does that mean someone with autism will develop schizophrenia later in life? Not at all.) What researches are now concentrating on is finding the biological causes of the features of these two conditions and discovering why they trigger the behaviors they do.

2. Generally, the earliest parents notice the first signs of autism is age 1, however MRI scans can see it in the brain much earlier than that.

According to Heather Hazlett, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD), enlargement of the brain seems to correlate with the arrival of autistic symptoms.

3. 50% of those with autism also have alexithymia, a condition defined by a difficulty understanding and identifying one’s own emotions.

Recognizing emotion depends in part on reading peoples’ faces. Those with autism often avoid looking into other people’s eyes, which contributes to their difficulty detecting emotions. Interestingly, if they don’t have alexithymia, they scan the eyes and mouth in a pattern similar to those without autism.
By contrast, people with alexithymia (with our without autism) look at faces for a typical amount of time, but scan the eyes and mouth in altered patterns.

Ongoing research is vital. The more we understand autism, the better our treatments will be. If you’d like to learn more, I provide online education specifically for how families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can apply neuroscience and psychology to improve their relationships. And if you have specific issues you need help with, you might qualify for online therapy as well. Contact my office and schedule a session.

Take a Deep Breath – You’ll Feel Better

Monday, July 10, 2017


Woman sitting on park bench relaxingWhen you were a kid, did your parents tell you to take long, deep breaths to help calm you down when you were upset?  As an adult, you may have noticed that popular practices like meditation, yoga and mindfulness, incorporate deep breathing. Even if you’ve never consciously thought about it, do you find yourself controlling your breathing when trying to combat anger or anxiety?

Why is concentrated deep breathing such a big deal? Our breathing patterns do much more than simply keep us alive. Here are just a few of the things deep breathing can do for you:

  • Strengthen the immune system and detoxify the body

  • Relieve pain

  • Reduce stress and blood pressure

  • Strengthen abdominal and intestinal muscles

  • Aid in healthy sleep patterns

  • Increase energy levels

It is fascinating to see how the different systems in our minds and bodies are so intertwined. Deep breathing releases endorphins, those feel-good, natural painkillers created by your own body. When practicing deep breathing, the movement of the diaphragm helps remove toxins from the organs, promoting better blood flow. Better blood flow and deeper breaths mean more oxygen coursing through the body. Oxygen provides energy, so that increase in oxygen in your body equates to a higher energy level for you!

Why is it that taking a deep breath is so effective in relieving stress and anxiety? Researchers recently conducted a study on mice (check out the New York Times write-up on the research study) that showed taking deep breaths is calming because it doesn’t activate the neurons that communicate with the brain’s arousal center. In contrast, shorter, shallower breaths activate neurons that throw the brain into a state of anxiety.

Breathing slowly and mindfully, activates the hypothalamus, connected to the pituitary gland in the brain, to send out chemicals that inhibit stress-producing hormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body. Hormones are also secreted that decrease blood pressure and heart rate.

Are you ready to start breathing deeply now? As simple as it sounds, breathing mindfully takes practice. When under stress, we often take shallow breaths, not using our full lung capacity.

You want to breathe from your diaphragm. Try this exercise:

Sit up straight and place your hands on your belly, just above your belly button. Let your fingertips touch lightly. Exhale fully through your mouth. Breath in deeply through your nose and into your belly, so your fingertips start to spread apart. Hold your breath for two to five seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Match the length of the inhale with the length of the exhale. Continue breathing in this manner for five to ten minutes.


Try to practice your breathing technique daily. The secret is simply to breathe, deeply and often. In addition, focusing on your breathing during physical activities, such as exercise, can help you become more mindful of your body.

Sometimes you need more than deep breathing to combat your anxiety. I can work with you to reduce your anxiety and get the most out of your life! Please contact my office to set up an appointment.  I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we can meet in person or I offer online therapy for those residing in Oregon or Washington states if that is more convenient for you.

Neuroscience in the Court System - Are 18 Year Olds Really Adults?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Neuroscience in the Court System Do you think an 18 year old is an adult? It’s commonly accepted that by the age of 18, a young man or a woman is an adult with adult privileges and adult consequences. For example, if you commit a crime at the age of 18 you’ll be tried as an adult in the court of law.

Yet, neuroscience shows that the brain is not fully developed by then. The process for making new connections and pruning unnecessary neurons continues well into the early twenties. Surprisingly, there’s an explosion of connectivity occurring after the age of 18. No wonder these young adults often make unwise decisions!

Earlier I wrote about Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University, who found that “cognitive skills usually form by age 16 while psychosocial maturity — measured by impulsivity, risk perception, thrill-seeking, resistance to peer influence — doesn’t begin until age 18, steadily increasing through the early 20s.”

A recent New York Times article considers the impact this is having on the criminal court system and what alternatives we might have. According to the article, “Young adults 18 to 24 make up 10 percent of the population, but they account for 28 percent of all arrests (2.1 million in 2015), a rate higher than that of any other age group.”

The article also reports on a new experiment based on neuroscience. A number of cities are now hosting Young Adult Courts – a hybrid of adult/juvenile justice systems. (San Francisco was the first. Now there are more across the U.S. as well as in England and Wales.)

The court staff is trained in neuroscience by a clinical psychologist, so they can apply this science to offenders between the ages of 18-24. They follow up by providing these immature “adults” with supervision, education, and support as they weekly check in and report their progress.

Rather than having a permanent black mark on their record, which can adversely change their entire future prospects, these young adults are getting help to mature and develop better decision-making skills. This a definite WIN!

Understanding how the brain works is fundamental to solving many of the issues young ones face today. I’m fascinated especially by how empathy is formed in some individuals while it isn’t formed in others. I’ll let you in on a secret…I’m in the process of writing my next book on the topic of empathy. I’m anxious to share with you what I’ve learned.

Did you know I provide online education specifically for how entrepreneurial couples and families with ASD can apply neuroscience and psychology to improve their relationships? And if you have personal issues you need help with, you might qualify for online therapy as well. In our busy, hectic lives, the Internet can make counseling easier and more accessible. Why not see if it’s right for you?

Look on the Bright Side - You Can Do It Even If You're a Natural Pessimist

Monday, June 19, 2017


Arrow and sign saying positive thinkingDoesn’t it seem like most people fall into one of two groups? There are the upbeat optimists who see the good in situations and then there are negative pessimists who tend to expect the worst. Which group are you in? If you tend toward the negative, then this article is for you!
 
There are certainly times and situations that bring negative emotions. Processing those negative feelings is a necessary part of the healing process. What I’m talking about here, doesn’t apply to a fairly short-lived sad, angry, or negative period in your life. I’m referring to overall perspective on life – the way you view your life, your future, even the people in your life.
 
Chronic pessimism inhibits your ability to bounce back from disappointments and life’s inevitable stresses. It can also strain relationships at home and at the workplace. But your perspective on life affects more than just how other people relate to you – it actually influences your health.
 
Recent studies are finding that optimistic people have better heart health than their pessimistic counterparts. (Read more about these studies in this NY Times article.) Optimists are more likely to eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking and overdrinking, and prioritize regular exercise than pessimists. As a result, they maintain healthier blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Optimism helps patients heal faster from illness or injury and boosts the immune system to prevent colds and flu.
 
The good news is that, with a little practice, you can become more positive. This isn’t a fake optimism. “Putting on a show” to look like you are feeling upbeat about life isn’t going to help. But you really can train yourself to feel optimistic from the inside out.
 
This is done by re-training your brain to think positively. There are neural pathways in your brain that control emotion. If you tend toward negative thinking, the neural pathways for negativity become stronger, kind of like a beaten down path through the forest. A lifetime of pessimistic thinking can produce some beaten down negative pathways! Negativity becomes your brain’s go-to emotion.
 
On the up side, your brain is capable of generating new pathways, and it’s possible to train the circuitry in your brain to promote positive responses. When you look for the good, you activate different neural circuits in your brain. Dopamine and serotonin production is increased, soothing and calming you. The more you stimulate these circuits in your brain, the stronger they become. Positivity will become a more automatic response.
 
It’s not a matter of making one, huge change. There are small things you can do every day to progressively strengthen your positive neural pathways. Here are four suggestions:
 
  1. Begin each day with a positive thought. It will help you set the tone for how you will choose to think for the day.
  2. Live one moment at a time. Stop worrying about the past and the future. Focus on the present and making that day the best it can be. The practice of mindfulness helps many of my clients to focus and see the good in their day.
  3. Practice gratitude. Having a grateful attitude is linked to everything from better mental and physical health to greater satisfaction in life and relationships. Look for the moments, big and small, that you are thankful for.
  4. Do good for others. If you focus on thinking about other people and working to make their life better, you think about your own problems and worries less. This, in turn, keeps you from dwelling on the negative and moves you to focus on the positive.

If your negative feelings run too deep, there may be something else in your life that needs attention. Stress comes when the different aspects of your life fall out alignment. I can help you identify where you are out of balance and guide you back into a healthy, productive alignment. Please contact my office to set up an appointment.  I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we can meet in person or I offer online therapy if that’s a better fit for you.


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