Nomophobia – the hype about an artificially created disorder

Nomophobia – a new disorder?

The term “nomophobia” describes the fear of spending time without your phone; some articles say it is a phobia of losing your mobile phone. Some even say it is an addiction; people are addicted to their iPhone or iPad. However, most authors are not aware of the concepts of addiction or phobia; when you have a closer look, both of them do not apply to a concept of “nomophobia”. Just one example – I just read this article on the web http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/78/107395.html. The author mentions that he “personally thinks it’s getting worse with very little relief in sight with more and more people contracting the illness”. Furthermore, he speaks of nomophobia and is switching later to internet addiction; he is citing only one study from Asia. The author himself is not a psychologist or psychiatrist, therefore the information I found in that article is really confusing for amateurs; nomophobia and internet addiction are different concepts.

What is addiction?

However, let’s talk some real scientific facts – there are hundreds, if not thousands, more or less scientifically sound studies about internet addiction. I could go on and on with the facts, but summarized, there are no precise criteria regarding internet addiction. Therefore, every study has its own criteria. The prevalence rates of internet addiction range from somewhat 1% to up to 80% (!) in early studies. Recent studies found 3-5%, this seems to be a somewhat “real” rate of people having problems with a healthy internet use. However, talking about addiction: what is addiction anyway? Stating some simple criteria like “If checking and rechecking your phone comes as naturally to you as breathing, or if you feel anxious or restless any time your phone is not on or near you, you may have a technology addiction” is highly unprofessional. An addiction is the abuse or misuse of a psychoactive drug, or the repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences (behavioral addiction only applies to gambling disorder). An addiction has to meet at least some the following criteria (according to the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual by the American Psychiatric Association) like:

  • Tolerance towards the substance (need for an increasing amount of the substance; and a diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance)
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  • A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use
  • Important social or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use
  • The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance

Nevertheless, some people are suffering from an “over-use” of the internet, they spend too much time online with negative effects on their social and work life. In most cases, people try to escape into virtual realities (to escape problems in real life),  they try to enhance their mood (depression) or meet new people online (social anxieties). Furthermore, our studies revealed that a problematic internet use is often connected to a problematic online porn consuming.

Addiction versus high engagement

I do not have any doubts that some people do have problems with a healthy internet use, but the concept of addiction seems not to be the right one here. In most cases, an over-use of the internet is connected to other psychological problems, such as depression or social anxiety. Furthermore, I mentioned in another blog that most studies confuse high engagement with addiction. Being highly engaged in the internet or with your mobile phone or with computer games does NOT automatically mean you’re addicted!

Even among high-level players of World of Warcraft, I only found 3%  to be “addicted” (according to scientifically sound criteria), and there are significant differences between highly engaged and addicted players. An addiction factor loaded highly on items tapping interpersonal conflicts, withdrawal symptoms, relapse and reinstatement and behavioral salience criteria for behavioral addiction; an engagement factor tapped items concerning euphoria and cognitive salience criteria. Therefore, addiction criteria like euphoria and cognitive salience seem to be of limited use when it comes to a classification of internet gaming disorder, internet addiction or a problematic use of a mobile phone. Even the new version of the DSM includes internet gaming disorder without mentioning “addiction” and states “more profound research is needed before it is considered for inclusion as a psychological disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Nomophobia – what has a phobia to do with it?

The term nomophobia misleads many amateurs to believe it is an actually real disorder. But to be classified as a real disorder, a phobia has to meet at least some of the following criteria:

  • A phobia is a marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable. It is cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood).
  • Any exposure to the phobic stimulus almost invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response, which may take the form of a situationally bound or predisposed panic attack.
  • The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable.
  • The phobic situation(s) is avoided or else is endured with intense anxiety or distress.
  • The avoidance behavior or distress causes a significant impairment in the person’s daily activities.

About my mobile phone: I have everything connected with it. My social hubs, all my numbers, my favourite apps, my mobile banking account, my work emails, my favorite games… With so much information stored on my phone (confidential emails, contact details, photos): Do I feel uncomfortable when I think about losing my phone? About other people reading all my private stuff? Of course I do, of course I feel somewhat anxious with the thoughts of losing my phone. If you apply this criteria,then I am a nomophobic. But is it a phobia? Very much not so. It is a normal behavior to have fears like this, losing a device with all my personal information stored on it makes me feel uncomfortable.

My conclusion as a Clinical Psychologist

There seem to be a lot of people with problems concerning a healthy use of the internet or their mobile phone. Most studies connect this over-use with disorders like depression or social anxiety. Therefore, the over-use of technology can be an sign of psychological disorders, people try to escape their depression or social anxiety with the help of the internet or video games (if it makes people feel better, it is not necessarily always a bad thing). Nevertheless, in my opinion, the talk about nomophobia is a highly exaggerated media hype about an artificially created disorder.

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

 

Stop.Breathe.Think. Daily happiness

“Love and happiness are not something ready made. They come from your own actions.” 

Dalai Lama XIV

Everybody wants true love and to be happy – I assume that there are only a few people in this world who want to live on their own. Nevertheless, this quote from Dalai Lama already points out to something I want to say – true love and happiness do not come from the outside; rather from your own actions and from the inside.

I heard this a long time ago, “Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” In other words, do what you love and love what you do, because this is the only way to live happily.

There only a few rules for true happiness

1. DROP THE THOUGHT: A lot of people tend to overthink certain matters. Try not to overanalyze other people’s reactions or words. You are not sitting inside other people’s head, therefore you construct your own reality by assuming what he or she might have meant by saying this or that – and your assumptions are in most cases not true. Therefore, try to “drop the thought” and go on living.

2. UNPLUG FOR QUALITY TIME: We are wired 24/7. Even with my iPhone and iPad, I can always be online, giving everybody the opportunity to speak to/with me. Sometimes I need to unplug, and my own space – and so do many people. You have to learn to let go. Set aside your phone and laptop, and spend some real quality time with friends. At the end of the day, they really matter. Imagine yourself in the last seconds before you die – you will probably NEVER say “I should’ve checked my Facebook timeline more often“; instead, most people regret missing time with friends.

3. KEEP ON LEARNING: I finished my PhD roughly some years ago.  Nevertheless, I never stopped learning. You have to feed your brain with some new stuff every now and then. Why don’t you lean Japanese calligraphy? Enroll to some sushi cooking lectures? By rough estimation, it takes 5 years to learn a new “profession” or to be excellent in some area. Therefore, you have plenty of time to learn new skills even if you are “older” than the usual 40/50/60 crowd you see in media. Challenge yourself; you are never too old to do something new.

4. FORGIVE AND LET GO. I used to believe in some kind of “revenge” for a long time, but I realized over the last years that this was some sort of negative energy inside of me. We all have people in our lives that use us, hurt us or test us somehow, but feelings of revenge do not serve any purpose for happiness. I learned to let go, and to trust “Karma”. If somebody hurts you or uses you, he will likely do this with other people as well – and there are good chances that life will teach him or her a lesson. If you are lucky enough (like me), you can even watch how it happens; just remember that everything you send out (love, happiness, negative thoughts) will come back to the sender. If you forgive and let it go, you learn and move on. Never regret a single part in your journey. Everything happens for a reason, and made you stronger somehow.

5. GIVE BACK: “Random acts of kindness”. Psychological studies reveal that real happiness comes from sharing with other people. If you believe in Karma or god, or a higher power, everything you send out will come back to you somehow. Just trust “god”, “the universe”, “karma” or whatever you believe in.

6. MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS: At the end of the day, only friends or family can help you when you are feeling down. Having a successful career and a lot of money in your wallet can make you feel safe, but it does not make you feel happy. Only a truly loving partner teaches us to become better people.  He or she supports us during our ups and our down moments. Be grateful when you have someone like this in your life. I found my spouse and I am daily grateful and consider myself blessed to have my spouse in my life.

7. BE AUTHENTIC. Don’t be a fake version of yourself. Try to be somebody who feels comfortable just the way you are. At the end of the day, it’s about who the inner you is. If people love you just because of your fake version, you’re not being true to yourself or to society. Always surround yourself with people who want you to succeed. It seems simple on the surface but I found myself working with people rooting for me to fail. It was a hard lesson because I just did not believe that there are people like this out there – but they exist. Therefore, stay away from them. Authentic people are hard to find; if you found them, hold onto it.

“Simple” rules, my foot, you might say. And yes, they are not that simple, but nevertheless – these are proven ways to improve your happiness. True love and real happiness are something that have to start within you. Do your part, and you will see that life changes for the better immediately…

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

Online gaming addiction – internet addiction?

“Help me, I am addicted to World of Warcraft!” You hear a lot about online gaming addiction in the media, especially addiction concerning MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online-Roleplaying Games) like World of Warcraft (WoW). But what is it, and what have recent research studies to say about it?

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Online gaming disorder (the correct name for online game “addiction”, according to the American Psychiatric Association) does not have any defined symptoms for a classification. This fact resulted in a variety of different questionnaires and even more inconsistent prevalence rates from 1% to 35%. Without any doubt, a high amount of time spent online with computer games can link to a problematic behavior and affect the quality of life significantly. However, gaming behavior cannot automatically be seen as addicted or problematic.

When talking about internet gaming disorder (IGD), most studies also link to a problematic internet use or “internet addiction”. In my opinion, I do not think that a concept like “being addicted to the internet” exists, but I am certainly aware of the fact that some people have a problem with a “normal” adaptive use of the internet. While there are distinct criteria for “addiction” for substance-related dependence such as alcohol, tobacco or drugs (behavioral addiction refers to gambling disorder), IGD is identified as a condition needing more profound research before it is considered for inclusion as a psychological disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The recent version of DSM V describes IGD as a “Persistent and recurrent use of the Internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress…” Several studies confirm that a high amount of time spent online playing games is connected with a greater risk of developing psychological disorders, such as depression, loneliness, anxiety disorders or aggression. It seems that highly active MMORPG player report greater impairments to health, quality of sleep and their social and academic life. On the other hand, they have more fun with playing, and report a greater amount of friends found online. Occasional gaming can increase the quality of life; therefore, the question is, what is a “healthy” gaming behavior, and what is addiction?

My studies concentrated on the difference between a highly engaged and addicted gaming behavior. Addiction usually refers to criteria like salience (domination of a person’s life by the activity), euphoria (a ‘buzz’ or a ‘high’  is derived from the activity), tolerance (the activity has to be undertaken to a progressively greater extent to achieve the same ‘buzz), withdrawal symptoms (cessation of the activity leads to the occurrence of unpleasant emotions or physical effects), conflict (the activity leads to conflict with others or self-conflict), relapse and reinstatement (resumption of the activity with the same vigor subsequent to attempts to abstain). Using these addiction criteria, some authors found two different factors explaining an addicted and highly engaged gaming behavior; this concludes that most studies confuse highly engaged gaming behavior with an addicted behavior.

My studies confirm highly significant differences between addicted and engaged players. For example, addicted players spend more time online playing WoW (32 hours per week compared to 21 hours per week for highly engaged players); addicted players stated their overall quality of life is lower than that of highly engaged players. Even in a sample with high-level players of World of Warcraft, I only classified 3.1% as “addicted”. Therefore, my conclusion is that caution should be extended when an excessive behavior pattern is attempted to be classified as a psychiatric disorder. Especially criteria like euphoria and cognitive salience seem to be of limited use when it comes to a classification of internet gaming disorder. I am well aware of the fact that there is a minority with problems adapting to a healthy use of online gaming, but I am strictly against labeling highly engaged gamers as “addicted”.

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

 

New leadership abilities – the new leadership style

Over the past years I noticed a little change in how to define leadership abilities. Old theories state “alpha” leaders make the best entrepreneurs. While this is true for some professions, with the rise of new media and new markets this theory no longer’s applicable for all professions. I was working with (sometimes passive-)aggressive achievers who insist on a hierarchical organizational model – and failed. They had a mission, a vision, a goal, but nevertheless; I saw great ideas and good company or organization startups fail just because of leaders not being able to adapt to modern times.

I do not want to generalize, but the kids of the 1980’s and 1990’s are more used to communitarian methods, emphasizing communities, messaging and sharing information. It is a fact that new media, such as Facebook and Twitter, changed the way people communicate. Generation Y is used to share information, most alpha leaders from the last century are not. I found myself in both positions in the last years, as an employee as well as the “boss”, the leader of teams. Therefore, over the last decade I noted some points that are important considering “new” leadership abilities, important for a successful organization:

1.) First and most important of all: Get rid of hierarchical structures. When I was younger, I was working in organizations with a tight hierarchical structure. For example, in one organization we used to have weekly team meetings, so called “supervisional meetings”: imagine a Round Table, with a majesty, the boss, sitting on the end of the table, judging about failures and erroneous behavior of team members in public. I use this as an example of how to NOT lead a team. Of course, the staff attrition was high, my boss lost and hired new team members every month, losing inspiring and highly motivated people all the time; in the end, I quit my job before the end of my contract as well. I saw similar structures in other companies and organizations as well, and they all came to me because of one problem: staff attrition is high, what can we do to keep our employees? I always have a look at the command structures, and it always boils down to this advice – get rid of hierarchical structures. Winning startups in the last two decades are horizontal! Employees must have the feeling that they are part of something bigger, they have to see the bigger picture, and they have to have the feeling that their opinion is embraced and welcome. It is a big bonus for leaders too. With hierarchical structures, the leader is responsible for every decision and every outcome. With horizontal structures, you can share burdens and responsibilities, but there has to be a transparent communication structure as well. Which brings me to my second and next point:

2.) Share information and invite your employees to contribute to the bigger picture. “Old” alpha leaders liked to be the only one gathering all information without sharing it. I was working in organizations wondering about our tasks because I didn’t get any information about the bigger picture, which was frustrating and demotivating for me and my colleagues. Therefore, create a culture with shared information. I don’t say that you have to share everything, some information is absolutely confidential, but employees should be aware of the bigger picture and get some background information about their work and some certain tasks.

3.) Embrace diversity. While “old” alpha leaders tended to just fill in positions, “new” leaders build up teams. They embrace diverse abilities, and are aware of the fact that there isn’t only one way to success. Everybody has his or her own potential and can contribute to the company’s success in his or her own unique successful way. I was working in an organization where candidates used to be cherry-picked by their university grades. This turned out to be a fatal error because good grades don’t say anything about social skills or creative solutions to complex problems. I ended up being part of a team with interchangeable people with no outstanding abilities but good grades, pleasing the alpha leader. The death of all creativity!

4.) Practice mindfulness and positive thoughts. This is my last advice, and it always works. Mindfulness helps you to become self-centered and to be aware of your surroundings, your life. Practiced regularly, it can help you to be a calm leader even in stormy seas. There are also some habits of highly successful people you might want to include in your life.

About this blog: Holding a doctoral/PhD-degree in Psychology, I was able to combine both my interests, Clinical-/Health-Psychology as well as Industrial-/Organizational-Psychology. Both areas are extremely interesting for me, especially in the combination with new technologies/new media. I specialized in social skills, an area important for Clinical Psychology as well as Organizational Psychology, in my coaching work I am able to combine the best research outcomes of both disciplines.

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

About the law of attraction…

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“Thoughts don’t become things; thoughts ARE things.” Eric Michael Leventhal

I really like this quote, basically because it sums up something I already do on a subconscious level, following the law of attraction, but I found that many people have problems with this point of view, saying it is not a scientifially proven fact. It may be true, but nevertheless, I found myself wondering about the fact why so many people are used to make they life harder for themself by negative thoughts, not being able to break out and create positive things in their life. I also wondered about how the law of attraction might work, if there is really something like a “force” attracting things in our life. This is what I found over the last years.

Interested in Quantum-physics as well as in Psychology, I found the outcomes of several studies in the last decade very astounding. If you break down matter, from molecules to atoms to electrons, neutrons and protons, you find even smaller parts. An important theory of Quantum-physics is the string theory. It basically states every matters consists of strings, sized a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. It is said that they are made of nothing but little lines of energy. Therefore, according to this theory, everything we see, your living room, the text you are currently reading, your body, is made of pure energy. YOU are made of energy. Therefore, from a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to differ between fantasy and reality, because both things are real somehow. We are really living in exciting times, when science is basically confirming ancient points of view that thoughts create reality (like Buddhism, …).

As I pointed out before, I strongly believe in the law of attraction. When I am in a positive mood, I attract positive situations; vice versa, when I am in a bad mood, more negative things seem to happen. In the beginning, the rate of good and bad things may be the same for positive or negative people, but positive people focus more on the positive aspects in their life. One positive experience can lead to another one, like a chain reaction. But to make good things happen, they have to be somewhere before – in your head, as thoughts. When all life around us including us is made of energy, including our thoughts, then why don’t we focus on good things? Why not channel our “energy”, our thoughts, into a desired direction?

Of course, things do not change instantly. What you are now, where you are living and working now, your current life circumstances, the people you know, everything is the product of thoughts you had and decisions you made in the last years. Be patient with yourself, if you find yourself trapped in unhappy life circumstances.

Why am I writing this? As a Psychologist and as a coach, I get to know a lot of people who are not happy with their life. I want to help by stating some facts about changing the life by changing one’s thoughts. I do not say that it is easy to change one’s life – but it is possible. Instead of channeling energy into negative views and complaining, your energy should go into positive things, summed up by “Do and think more of what makes you happy”. You are the creator of your own reality, and only you are responsible for your life. Maybe you had a rough childhood, an unhappy marriage, you met the wrong people in your life, you made some wrong decisions… it is okay, nobody is perfect. Everybody has his or her own story, but it is solely up to you how you live your life, to make changes, starting with your thoughts in this very moment.

I always recommend writing down your thoughts. You would be stunned how many negative thoughts are crossing your mind every day. This is a given fact, how can you be happy with unhappy thoughts? By writing them down, you (maybe for the first time in your life) make yourself aware about how you treat yourself and your surrounding. Once you wrote them down, it is up to you to find better thoughts for yourself. Think about better thoughts and write them down. Also start to think about your goals, and write down how you want your life to be. Psychological researcher found that people who wrote down their goals instead of just saying them out loud where more likely to reach their goals. This fact is true for both negative and positive things. For example, studies suggest that when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw it away, they also mentally discharged these thoughts. People who were told to carry around these thoughts in their pocket were found to be more likely attached to these thoughts. Therefore, to start a change in your life, write down your goals, your desired changes in your life. I recommend using sticky notes, and put them somewhere where you can see them as often as possible. The more energy you channel into a desired direction, the more likely you will see outcomes. Just be careful about goals, they should be realistic. Winning a billion in a lottery is possible, but unlikely. Loosing more than a pound per week is possible, but not very healthy. Getting to know your future husband next week if you are single may be possible but unlikely. Set your goals realistically when you write them down. Writing down what you want is a good way to be more clear about your intentions, and I believe that this somehow activates the law of attraction.

Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist, a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology and new technology (play a special game to overcome depression or use an app to provide positive psychology) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

New year’s resolution

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A new resolution, right after Christmas!

So an old year is fading out, a new year is set to begin. I do my regular work-out in gym, and I see a lot of more people working out in January than in December. Like all the years before – millions of people think about changing habits, loosing weight, quit smoking, etc. Some are successful, many will fail. So what does I, as a Psychologist, have to say about it?

First of all – changing bad habits or the diet or negative cognitions should not only happen around New Year’s Eve but every day during the year. And it matters how you pinpoint your goals, which language you use, and how you visualize it.

Research from business psychology shows that it makes a significant difference how you write down your goals. Be as specific and challenging as possible. For example, the goal “I want to lose weight” is extremely vague. Be as specific as possible! Psychological research shows that language and imaginatioemely powerful. So instead of thinking “I will always eat salad at lunch”, try to visualize yourself in the cafeteria, how you head straight to the salad bar, and say “The next time I am in the cafeteria, I will eat a salad!”. With this implementation intention you clarify your goals and make it more possible that you do what your goal is. Additionally, if you want to eat more healthy, the words “Not today” can be very useful and powerful, when there are sweet temptations like cakes or muffins. Interestingly, most people underestimate the power of visualization. Try to visualize your goal as colorful as possible. Take a few minutes every day, and Try to visualize the place, colors, smells and sounds connected with your goal. This way, you make your brain ready to execute the necessary steps for reaching your goal, you are priming it. Changing something doesn’t need a lot of fancy coaching handbooks. I usually recommend a simple three-step-program that applies to a lot of goals:

1.) Clarify your goal(s): As I pointed out before, be as specific as possible. The most important part is to visualize your goal, your behavior as specific as possible. To make it even more effective, try to visualize it in the minutes before you fall asleep. Your brain is working all night long, even when you sleep, and this way you prime your brain for success.

2.) Identify subgoal(s): try to break down your goal into one or several subgoals. For example, the main goal of “I want to lose weight” is very unspecific, but when you identify several subgoals, such as “When I am in the cafeteria, I will order salad”, it is easier to reach your overall goal of losing weight. The same goes for changing habits or including more physical exercise in your life. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator makes a huge difference over a year.

3.) Identify potential obstacles: this is a very important part. Try to find several obstacles that might keep you from reaching your goal. For example, going out with friends to a “All you can eat Chinese buffet” might be challenging if you plan on losing weight. Write down and visualize what you want to do with obstacles like this, e.g. “I will eat more vegetables than fried food at buffets”.

From a psychological perspective, I really appreciate the will of people to overcome bad habits or change a diet. Don’t forget that you have to keep on changing, and don’t be too hard with your personal failures. At least you tried to change something! Just always remember this: it is okay to fail – just keep on trying, don’t give up!

Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist, a motivational speaker and consulter and a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology and new technology (play a special game to overcome depression or use an app to provide positive psychology) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones.

Things people regret before they die…

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In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years“. (Abraham Lincoln)

When I was a student of Psychology, I was working in a palliative care home. It was one of the most important and defining times for my personality, I gained a lot of insights in how older people behave, think – and also their regrets. Similarly, Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse, recorded the most common regrets of older people before they die, and published a book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing”.

When I was talking to my beloved grandmother (she is 85 years old) about the “speed” of life, she answered me that her first 30 years went by very fast. Sadly, the following 50 years went by even faster. She raised kids, took care of the family and her home, and this was her life. You think you have so much time in life left, but truth is, life goes by very fast. I made it a habit to regularly ask myself if I live the life the way I want it to be, to have no regrets the hours and minutes before I die… I would like to share the most common regrets of dying people with you; you are still alive, you are still able for changes in your life, no matter how old you are.

Here are the top regrets:

To have the courage to live a life true to yourself, and not a life others expected of you.

Caring too much about what other people think? This was one of the most common regrets, according to Bronnie Ware. Looking back at their lifes, many old people realize that they once had dreams, but they were unable to fulfill their dreams. They lived a life according to the plans of the parents, of friends, of spouses – but not the life they wanted to have.

Therefore, you can begin to write a diary: what are your real dreams? What do you REALLY want to accomplish in life? And more important: Who or what is holding you back, and how?

I worked too much.

I was in this work trap as well. I found myself working too much, it caused bad effects on my physical and mental health. Thankfully, I found a way out of it. Many male seniors missed their children’s youth, or their partner’s companionship because they worked too hard, instead of spending time with their beloved ones.

Try to find some time during the week (and especially on the weekends) to spend it with your family and friends. You should make it a habit to meet dear friends at least once a week, and if it is just for a coffee (also see the next regret).

Stay in touch with old friends.

Everyone misses friends when they are dying. Many of the older people deeply regret that they didn’t spend time with friends, to let friendships slip by over the years. It is easy to forget friends over work and time you want to spend with the family, but try to meet friends at least once a week.

To have the courage to express the feelings, and standing up for yourself more.

Many people suppress their feelings just to keep peace with others. This comes at a price, because you settle for a mediocre existence instead of standing up for yourself or expressing your feelings to certain people. Moreover, most people regret not telling someone how they truly felt. Even if the “right one” does not exist, telling someone how you really feel will save you from regrets such as “What if…”

Many people have fears when they try to stand up for themselves. It is not pleasant, and you risk controversial discussions and arguments. Still, you should ask yourself what is it that makes you suppress your feelings. Is it really worth to suppress your own feelings just to keep peace with everyone? Be nice, but not at the expense of your own happiness.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Bronnie Ware states that this is a surprising regret. Many old people realize that happiness is a choice. A choice you constantly make in every point in your life. Being stuck in a comfort zone, with the fears of change, are the most common reasons why people cannot be happy. Find some more insights about rules of happiness here, and be courageous to be happy. You owe it to yourself!

Another regret is that people didn’t live more in the moment enough. For example, watching children growing up makes you realize that some moments are really precious. Mindfulness is an important aspect of happiness and embracing the moment.

I didn’t take a risk.

Most people don’t like risks. We are creatures of habit. But, when you are living too much in your comfort zone, you will never realize how happy you could be. You will feel you missed out a lot of adventures life has to offer. Risks are not pleasant – but are whole lives living in a comfort zone and the regrets the minutes before you die more pleasant?

I was worrying too much.

Most people are worried about a lot of things all the time. If you keep a diary, you will wonder why you ever got so worried about something – for nothing…

I truly wish you live the life you want!

 

Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist, a motivational speaker and consulter and a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology and new technology (play a special game to overcome depression or use an app to provide positive psychology) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones.

 

 

 

Life changing habits

“Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll fell peace.”

Spirit says, “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.”

Marianne Williamson

I get to hear following sentences a lot; like “I want to change my life”, “I want to change this” and “I want to change that”… After all, the good thing is, we are all creatures of habit. The bad thing is, we are creatures that stick to old habits. Another good thing is, habits can change! For example, I made it a habit to work out frequently and I made it a habit to eat healthy. It was not easy in the beginning, but once you made the first steps, it gets more and more easy to include new habits into your everyday life.

Most important of all, I made it a habit to think positive. You might say that these steps are difficult – they are! If you want to change everything in your life at once, it is difficult and you will most probably fail, to be honest. It is better to stick to baby-steps instead. For example, if you want to eat more healthy food, start with small steps like a healthy breakfast or a healthy lunch every day. It is mandatory to make a plan of things you want / write it down, make a 30-day plan for habits you want to change, and put it somewhere where you can see it (on the fridge). Commit to your plan, publicly, and log your process! Furthermore, do not forget to reward yourself. For example, whenever I reached a certain goal with my work out plan, I rewarded myself with a new outfit. And – be proud of yourself, even if you fail. At least you tried it. Fall may fall down and might nearly give up, but this is part of the process; you try, you fail, you learn something, and you try again!

There are some habits I included in my everyday living, for example:

Think positive

Positive thinking is important to form habits. Even if you fail: with an optimistic way of thinking you will try it again and succeed. Start by detecting your negative thoughts first, by recording your negative self-talk. Find some help with my other blog article about positive thoughts here.

Stop multi-tasking

Over the past years I made the mistake of multi-tasking. In our world it is so easy to get distracted, you have your smartphone and tablet on your desk, your laptop and your PC turned on, and you switch every 10 minutes, when a new message on Facebook pops up or someone wrote you a message. I felt super productive this way, but I realized that even when I did a lot lot things during the day, I didn’t get anything essential done in time. Multi-tasking is not productive. Therefore, stop it. Make it a habit to fully commit to the work you currently do.

Follow the 1-hour rule: fully commit to a work for exactly one hour. Set your phone on silent, do not open Facebook, concentrate on your current work for 60 minutes. Stop phubbing. After that, evaluate. Was it enough time? Are you able to put another hour into it? If so, do it. You’ll see, you get more work done more efficiently if you fully commit to it, and just IT.

Exercise!

Yes – you will roll your eyes, you hear it the x-thousandst time. Well then – why aren’t you exercising? What are your excuses? Too much work? No time? Instead of wasting time in front of the TV, there is always time for work out. And trust me – 30 minutes on the treadmill will relax you more than 30 minutes on the couch, watching TV or playing games or whatever you usually I do.

Exercise helps you to think positive, you gain more self-confidence. You will feel better – and this is definitely a life-changing habit! I enjoy my work out times not only for physical reasons: it is one time for me and me only. I have my best ideas and brain storming during work out times… I put my workout times in my calendar, this my time for me and for me only.

Simplify your life

You would be surprised how many time you lose with non-essential things during the day. So as a first step try to identify things in your life that are essential. Things, activities, people that are important to you, that you love the most. Then try to identify the rest.

Spend more time with things you love, and less time with things that are non-essential. This can change your life because it simplifies your life in general and it helps you to focus on what’s important.

Be kind and friendly

I strongly believe in Karma in a way that friendly and kind people get more back from life itself than grumpy and selfish people. Kindness, being friendly and smiling are habits that can be cultivated. If you focus on it, for example do one kind thing a day (bring some sweet surprise to work, pay for someone else’s coffee at Starbucks, etc), you will notice changes in your life. I believe in the law of Karma and attraction. With being kind you start to attract other kind people and episodes in your life. People will react to you differently and treat you better!

Even if you have some grumpy and negative people in your life – do not let them bring you down to their level. Try to smile and imagine being in a kind of positive cloud that filters negative comments away. You will be surprised about changes in your life if you do this constantly.

Identify your best hours during the day

Start a daily routine and identify what’s the best and productive hours during the day for you. For me, for example, it’s the morning hours before noon where I am at my best and get the most things done. Obama is known to work in the evening hours. Other people work best in the afternoon. Try to create a daily routine with everything – your work, your exercise, your dates with your partner: this will help you to root new habits, and it helps you to focus on what’s important and not whatever comes along your way. Use any app for time-management and a calendar. It helps you to get the most important things done and to eliminate non-efficient things.

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Licensed Psychologist, and the founder and director of Thrive in Life Counseling and Therapy LLC, his private practice in Franklin/Nashville, Tennessee. He is a researcher as well as the author of several peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters about internet gaming disorder, internet addiction and anxiety disorders. He offers services in English and German. Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum diagnoses and treats individuals, couples and groups with a wide range of challenges in their lives, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, ADHD, shyness, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, phobias, diversity, relationship issues, mens issues, career and life challenges, marital and couple issues and other challenges. His research work focuses on “new” technologies, such as online-based social skills trainings as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as addiction.

Changes in life – set goals

Each and every one of us has changes in his or her life. Most likely, changes happen suddenly, with no chance of any preparation for it. We all have different viewpoints and approaches to problems, uncertainty in life can create fear or even panic.

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Sometimes it is hard to see the light in our lifes

I did not like changes in my life at all; but I really have to admit that I grew the strongest and into something better with all the changes that happened in my life. I realize now that changes are necessary – stagnation means death. Most changes demand from us to transform ourselves into something better. If we fail to do so, life has its own way to teach us lessons over and over…

However, with life persistently changing it is the best to just to learn to recognize and accept the facts that everything changes always. When I look back at my life, not many plans turned out exactly the way I wanted it to be, but at the end of the day I am very happy that everything is just the way it is – I learned to accept it! Acceptance is the key element to embrace changes in your life. I would like to share a few ways with you, how to go on with changes in your life.

Accept it the way it is

All of a sudden, something changed in your life. A divorce, a break-up, you got fired, anything. The first thing most people try is to resist the change. They hold on to old paths, but resistance is the fastest way to further unhappiness. It is a waste of energy, because you cannot change inevitable facts. Instead, channel your energy into acceptance – it is what it is. Acceptance gives you time to breathe.

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Changes in life – something is ending, something begins…

Nothing is permanent

Acceptance is one of the first steps, and the sooner you accept that nothing is permanent, that life means constant change, the earlier you regain calmness. Your life isn’t the same like it was 10 years ago, and it will not be the same 10 years from now. Everything that happens right now will affect and change you. Acceptance of the everlasting fact of change will give you time to breathe. Try to see the bigger picture – nothing will stay the same, forever.

Baby steps – be patient

Sometimes we have big changes ahead, or we want to change ourselves. We move out of our house, children move away, we have a new job, we want to lose weight, or build muscles … it is easy to be impatient and demand from our self or our life that everything has to happen exactly the way we want it, and we want it right now. It is easy to be frustrated when we don’t see any results right now. But remain calm and focus on your goal – concentrate on baby steps. Every little step, and it can be a tiny little mini-step, takes you toward your goal. Just be aware that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” – in a week from now, in a month, or in a year from now – things are different if you stick to your goal.

Make plans – set yourself a goal in life

I know, this interferes with my aforementioned sentence, that life often turns out different than we originally planned it. But still, if you want changes in your life, make a plan. You set a goal, and you make a plan how to reach that goal. Studies confirmed that it is easier for people with a (written) plan (for the next days, months, … )  to reach their goal. Break down your goal into baby steps and follow that steps. Ask yourself – what can you do right now, right here, as a first baby step to reach your goal? You can begin right here and right now to make a difference…

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Licensed Psychologist, and the founder and director of Thrive in Life Counseling and Therapy LLC, his private practice in Franklin/Nashville, Tennessee. He is a researcher as well as the author of several peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters about internet gaming disorder, internet addiction and anxiety disorders. He offers services in English and German. Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum diagnoses and treats individuals, couples and groups with a wide range of challenges in their lives, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, ADHD, shyness, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, phobias, diversity, relationship issues, mens issues, career and life challenges, marital and couple issues and other challenges. His research work focuses on “new” technologies, such as online-based social skills trainings as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as addiction.

Stand up for yourself! How to survive in a shark tank

Writing this blog requires a lot of introspection and thinking about my past. I realize that I’ve changed a lot over the past months and years, and it’s all making sense to me now:

I was living in a shark tank!

Reading Chellie Campbell’s book “The wealthy spirit” (http://www.chellie.com/) brings her interesting concept of sharks and dolphins back to me. She describes it pretty well that there sharks and dolphins and tuna in your life. To break down her concept in a few sentences:

  • Dolphins are wonderful creatures. They are playful, enjoy life, and they swim in schools. They are creative, they attract beauty and love, and they are successful.
  • Sharks are eating machines, born to eat you. They fight against dolphins and eat tuna. They want to take advantage of dolphins.
  • Tuna are “average” people, swimming with the mass, eaten by sharks.

Of course, it is a very simple concept, but I really find it very appealing, especially when looking back at my own life over the past years. As a creative, freedom-loving dolphin I found myself in a shark-ish sea. Fortunately, I had a some dolphins that supported me in my life and at work. Therefore, I always remained strong in my faith in myself, no matter how hard some people tried to push me down.

Con-artist sharks, disguised as friends

To say it with Chellie’s words, I met some “Con-Artist” sharks in my life. Con-artist sharks try to be dolphins, they pretend to be your friend, but in their eyes you can see the calculation. They just figure out how they can take advantage of you. They don’t want to pay you, or share anything with you – all they see is money and they use your efforts for their own good. They use YOU. They used me, too. I found myself surrounded by some sharks in my life. I noticed that something is wrong, because I had severe colds and infections every other month, my immune system was down. I realized that I had to change – I worked until I found myself near to a burn-out, I gave everything I could, but nothing was ever good enough. But the minute I changed – the moment I stood up for myself, I found myself confronted with sharks that tried to push me down immediately. I want to share some of the insights I gained over the past years.

Be aware of the signs!

First of all, be aware of shark signs. I realize now that I was being drained; it began to tune in to my body. I didn’t feel my usual spark anymore. Of course, I enjoyed working with my patients and clients, but other than that, I felt very tired after speaking to certain people. I realize now that these were the signs, that there is something wrong going on. Dolphin people lift you up; they support you and leave you with a better mood. I met some wonderful dolphin people over the last years, people who supported me, my work, people who shared my ideas, and we developed some amazing things together. But working with shark people left me without energy; I was exhausted almost every day and had a damaged immune system. I don’t blame shark people for that – it is the nature of them to use you. But it is up to you to stand up for yourself and to protect yourself, because you cannot avoid sharks at certain points in your life.

Stand up for yourself, and take a breath

Stand up for yourself! Coming from a psychologist, this is a rather natural advice; but I had to learn how to stand up for myself. I was teaching people how to stand up for themselves, but failing to do this in my own life. Over the past years I really changed, I inherited the habit of standing up for myself. But be aware that the minute you change and stand up for yourself, you will notice a change in other people’s behavior as well. It will attract good things in your life. Dolphins will welcome the change, help you and support you – sharks and tuna people won’t. They will try everything – using shrewd methods – to push you down.

You have to always remember your individual power! I know it from myself and from my work with patients, that it is so easy to lose it. The minute someone blames you in a bossy way, we tend to tense up and feel diminished. I found the following step to be a very good advice, both in my work with patients and in my own life: Take a breath. Take a deep breath; and maybe another one. The tension will go away eventually, and we can focus on our self, remembering the strength we have inside.

Your personal wall

Sometimes, it is difficult to quit the job. It is easy to say, just quit your job or leave a relationship, when people don’t acknowledge you. Sometimes it’s just not possible! In this case, I advise my patients and clients to visualize a protecting wall. This can be anything, and I am amazed with the ideas and visions my patients had –a fire wall, the Chinese wall, water ditches, brick walls, etc. Try to find something that protects you in your mind. Visualize a protecting wall around you, an energy shield. It is a good protection when somebody is trying to emotionally hurt you, is yelling at you or otherwise pushing themselves negatively into your sphere. You might experience that it won’t cut you so viscerally anymore.

Say NO – set boundaries

I found it hard for myself to set boundaries at work. Over the past years, I learned to say “I will give my best, and this is enough. This is what I can do for you, and this is what I can’t”. I learned how to not get defensive, but to talk in a constructive way. When someone is pushing your buttons, it is always your decision to react in a civilized manner. Of course, civilized and objective discussions like that are not possible with most sharks. The moment I changed myself, stood up for myself, I realized that there were still some people that tried to put me down. I learned to say to myself and to other people “Not with me!”

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Licensed Psychologist, and the founder and director of Thrive in Life Counseling and Therapy LLC, his private practice in Franklin/Nashville, Tennessee. He is a researcher as well as the author of several peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters about internet gaming disorder, internet addiction and anxiety disorders. He offers services in English and German. Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum diagnoses and treats individuals, couples and groups with a wide range of challenges in their lives, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, ADHD, shyness, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, phobias, diversity, relationship issues, mens issues, career and life challenges, marital and couple issues and other challenges. His research work focuses on “new” technologies, such as online-based social skills trainings as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as addiction.