Posted in Parenting, Working Memory

Working Memory

 

Executive Functioning: Working memory

Working memory is a basic mental skill. It’s important for both learning and doing many everyday tasks. Working memory allows the brain to briefly hold new information while it’s needed in the short term. It may then help to transfer it into long-term memory.

Most kids with learning and attention issues have trouble with working memory. Working memory is an ability that allows us to work with information. It helps us learn and perform even basic tasks.

Working memory is one of the brain’s executive functions. It’s the ability to hold on to new information so we can turn around and use it in some way. Working memory allows us to hold information without losing track of what we’re doing.

Working memory is like a temporary sticky note in our brain. It holds new information in place so the brain can work with it briefly and perhaps connect it with other information. (Attention plays a big role in this process.)

The teacher may ask your child to put her snow boots away, but first hang up her coat. Your child may only do one task or forget which one she’s supposed to do first.

Your child may also find that the information she has remembered doesn’t make much sense. Because of her working memory problems, her brain didn’t package it properly in the first place. If kids learn information in a disjointed way, they have trouble using it later.

A video from Executive Function Coach Benjamin Mizrahi.
Mr Mizrahi is a coach, a learning specialist and a teacher.

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Posted in Organization, Parenting

Morning routine – a follow up

A follow up on my first video on morning routines.
Remember that most of the stress in the morning stems from the fact that we are trying to manage few routines at the same time. (ours and our kids’)

(my first video on morning routine can be found here: https://youtu.be/LY2XYWFANbo )

Mr. Mizrahi is an Executive Function coach, a learning specialist and a teacher in New York City.

 

Posted in Executive Functions Explained

What are Executive Functions?

 

Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It’s in charge of making sure things get done. When kids have issues with executive functioning, any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management and flexible thinking becomes a challenge. The more you know about the challenges, the better you’ll be able to help your child build her executive skills and manage the difficulties.

Posted in Parenting

Four Lessons from “Inside Out” to Discuss With Kids

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, it’s important to get involved in your kid’s media lives, one way of doing so is to watch movies together.

Today, I sat with my kids to watch the movie “Inside Out.”

“Since its release, Inside Out has been applauded by critics and adored by audiences.

But perhaps its greatest achievement has been this: It has moved viewers young and old to take a look inside their own minds. As you likely know by now, much of the film takes place in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, with five emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—embodied by characters who help Riley navigate her world. The film has some deep things to say about the nature of our emotions—which is no coincidence, as the GGSC’s founding faculty director, Dacher Keltner, served as a consultant on the film, helping to make sure that, despite some obvious creative liberties, the film’s fundamental messages about emotion are consistent with scientific research.

Those messages are smartly embedded within Inside Out‘s inventive storytelling and mind-blowing animation; they enrich the film without weighing it down. But they are conveyed strongly enough to provide a foundation for discussion among kids and adults alike. Some of the most memorable scenes in the film double as teachable moments for the classroom or dinner table.

Though Inside Out has artfully opened the door to these conversations, it can still be hard to find the right way to move through them or respond to kids’ questions. So for parents and teachers who want to discuss Inside Out with children, here we have distilled four of its main insights into our emotional lives, along with some of the research that backs them up. And a warning, lest we rouse your Anger: There are some spoilers below.

1) Happiness is not just about joy. When the film begins, the emotion of Joy—personified by a manic pixie-type with the voice of Amy Poehler—helms the controls inside Riley’s mind; her overarching goal is to make sure that Riley is always happy. But by the end of the film, Joy—like Riley and the audience—learns that there is much, much more to being happy than boundless positivity. In fact, in the film’s final chapter, when Joy cedes control to some of her fellow emotions, particularly Sadness, Riley seems to achieve a deeper form of happiness.

This reflects the way that a lot of leading emotion researchers see happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, the author of the best-selling How of Happiness, defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” (emphasis added) So while positive emotions such as joy are definitely part of the recipe for happiness, they are not the whole shebang.

In fact, a recent study found that people who experience “biodiversity,” or a rich array of both positive and negative emotions, have better mental health. The authors of this study suggest that feeling a variety of specific emotions may give a person more detailed information about a particular situation, thus resulting in better behavioral choices—and potentially greater happiness.

For example, in a pivotal moment in the film, Riley allows herself to feel sadness, in addition to fear and anger, about her idea of running away from home; as a result, she decides not to go through with her plan. This choice reunites Riley with her family, giving her a deeper sense of happiness and contentment in the comfort she gets from her parents, even though it’s mixed with sadness and fear.

In that light, Inside Out’s creators, including director Pete Docter, made a smart choice to name Poehler’s character “Joy” instead of “Happiness.” Ultimately, joy is just one element of happiness, and happiness can be tinged with other emotions, even including sadness.

2) Don’t try to force happiness. One of us (Vicki) felt an old, familiar frustration when Riley’s mother tells her to be her parents’ “happy girl” while the family adjusts to a stressful cross-country move and her father goes through a difficult period at work. As a child, Vicki got similar messages and used to think something was wrong with her if she wasn’t happy all the time. And all the research and press about the importance of happiness in recent years can make this message that much more potent.

Thank goodness emotion researcher June Gruber and her colleagues started looking at the nuances of happiness and its pursuit. Their findings challenge the “happy-all-the-time” imperative that was probably imposed upon many of us.

For example, their research suggests that making happiness an explicit goal in life can actually make us miserable. Gruber’s colleague Iris Mauss has discovered that the more people strive for happiness, the greater the chance that they’ll set very high standards of happiness for themselves and feel disappointed—and less happy—when they’re not able to meet those standards all the time.

So it should come as no surprise that trying to force herself to be happy actually doesn’t help Riley deal with the stresses and transitions in her life. In fact, not only does that strategy fail to bring her happiness, but it also seems to make her feel isolated and angry with her parents, which factors into her decision to run away from home.

What’s a more effective route to happiness for Riley (and the rest of us)? Recent research points to the importance of “prioritizing positivity”—deliberately carving out ample time in life for experiences that we personally enjoy. For Riley, that’s ice hockey, spending time with friends, and goofing around with her parents.

But critically, prioritizing positivity does not require avoiding or denying negative feelings or the situations that cause them—the kind of single-minded pursuit of happiness that can be counter-productive. That’s a crucial emotional lesson for Riley and her family when Riley finally admits that moving to San Francisco has been tough for her—an admission that brings her closer to her parents.

3) Sadness is vital to our well-being. Early in the film, Joy admits that she doesn’t understand what Sadness is for or why it’s in Riley’s head. She’s not alone. At one time or another, many of us have probably wondered what purpose sadness serves in our lives.

That’s why the two of us love that Sadness rather than Joy emerges as the hero of the movie. Why? Because Sadness connects deeply with people—a critical component of happiness—and helps Riley do the same. For example, when Riley’s long-forgotten imaginary friend Bing Bong feels dejected after the loss of his wagon, it is Sadness’s empathic understanding that helps him recover, not Joy’s attempt to put a positive spin on his loss. (Interestingly, this scene illustrates an important finding from research on happiness, namely that expressions of happiness must be appropriate to the situation.)

In one the film’s greatest revelations, Joy looks back on one of Riley’s “core memories”—when the girl missed a shot in an important hockey game—and realizes that the sadness Riley felt afterwards elicited compassion from her parents and friends, making her feel closer to them and transforming this potentially awful memory into one imbued with deep meaning and significance for her.

With great sensitivity, Inside Out shows how tough emotions like sadness, fear, and anger, can be extremely uncomfortable for people to experience—which is why many of us go to great lengths to avoid them (see the next section). But in the film, as in real life, all of these emotions serve an important purpose by providing insight into our inner and outer environments in ways that can help us connect with others, avoid danger, or recover from the loss.

One caveat: While it’s important to help kids embrace sadness, parents, and teachers need to explain to them that sadness is not the same as depression—a mood disorder that involves prolonged and intense periods of sadness. Adults also need to create safe and trusting environments for children so they will feel safe asking for help if they feel sad or depressed.

4) Mindfully embrace—rather than suppress—tough emotions. At one point, Joy attempts to prevent Sadness from having any influence on Riley’s psyche by drawing a small “circle of Sadness” in chalk and instructing Sadness to stay within it. It’s a funny moment, but psychologists will recognize that Joy is engaging in a risky behavior called “emotional suppression”—an emotion-regulation strategy that has been found to lead to anxiety and depression, especially amongst teenagers whose grasp of their own emotions is still developing. Sure enough, trying to contain Sadness and deny her a role in the action ultimately backfires for Joy, and for Riley.

Later in the film, when Bing Bong loses his wagon (the scene described above), Joy tries to get him to “cognitively reappraise” the situation, meaning that she encourages him to reinterpret what this loss means for him—in this case, by trying to shift his emotional response toward the positive. Cognitive reappraisal is a strategy that has historically been considered the most effective way to regulate emotions. But even this method of emotion regulation is not always the best approach, as researchers have found that it can sometimes increase rather than decrease depression, depending on the situation.

Toward the end of the movie, Joy does what some researchers now consider to be the healthiest method for working with emotions: Instead of avoiding or denying Sadness, Joy accepts Sadness for who she is, realizing that she is an important part of Riley’s emotional life.

Emotion experts call this “mindfully embracing”emotion. What does that mean? Rather than getting caught up in the drama of an emotional reaction, a mindful person kindly observes the emotion without judging it as the right or wrong way to feel in a given situation, creating space to choose a healthy response. Indeed, a 2014 study found that depressed adolescents and young adults who took a mindful approach to life showed lower levels of depression, anxiety, and bad attitudes, as well as a greater quality of life.

Certainly, Inside Out isn’t the first attempt to teach any of these four lessons, but it’s hard to think of another piece of media that has simultaneously moved and entertained so many people in the process. It’s a shining example of the power of media to shift viewers’ understanding of the human experience—a shift that, in this case, we hope will help viewers foster deeper and more compassionate connections to themselves and those around them.”

Source here.

Posted in Parenting

9 bad habits you must break to be more productive

Nothing sabotages your productivity quite like bad habits. They are insidious, creeping up on you slowly until you don’t even notice the damage they’re causing.

Bad habits slow you down, decrease your accuracy, make you less creative, and stifle your performance. Getting control of your bad habits is critical, and not just for productivity’s sake. A University of Minnesota study found that people who exercise a high degree of self-control tend to be much happier than those who don’t, both in the moment and in the long run.

“By constant self-discipline and self-control you can develop greatness of character.” –Grenville Kleiser

Some bad habits cause more trouble than others, and the nine that follow are the worst offenders. Shedding these habits will increase your productivity and allow you to enjoy the positive mood that comes with increased self-control.

Impulsively surfing the Internet

It takes you 15 consecutive minutes of focus before you can fully engage in a task. Once you do, you fall into a euphoric state of increased productivity called flow. Research shows that people in a flow state are five times more productive than they otherwise would be. When you click out of your work because you get an itch to check the news, Facebook, a sport’s score, or what have you, this pulls you out of flow. This means you have to go through another 15 minutes of continuous focus to reenter the flow state. Click in and out of your work enough times, and you can go through an entire day without experiencing flow.

Perfectionism

Most writers spend countless hours brainstorming characters and plot, and they even write page after page that they know they’ll never include in the book. They do this because they know that ideas need time to develop. We tend to freeze up when it’s time to get started because we know that our ideas aren’t perfect and what we produce might not be any good. But how can you ever produce something great if you don’t get started and give your ideas time to evolve? Author Jodi Picoult summarized the importance of avoiding perfectionism perfectly: “You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.”

Meetings

Meetings gobble up your precious time like no other. Ultra-productive people avoid meetings as much as humanly possible. They know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so when they must have a meeting they inform everyone at the onset that they’ll stick to the intended schedule. This sets a clear limit that motivates everyone to be more focused and efficient.

Responding to e-mails as they arrive

Productive people don’t allow their e-mail to be a constant interruption. In addition to checking their e-mail on a schedule, they take advantage of features that prioritize messages by sender. They set alerts for their most important vendors and their best customers, and they save the rest until they reach a stopping point in their work. Some people even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when they’ll be checking their e-mail again.

Hitting the snooze button

When you sleep, your brain moves through an elaborate series of cycles, the last of which prepares you to be alert at your wake up time. This is why you’ll sometimes wake up right before your alarm clock goes off—your brain knows it’s time to wake up and it’s ready to do so. When you hit the snooze button and fall back asleep, you lose this alertness and wake up later, tired and groggy. Worst of all, this grogginess can take hours to wear off. So no matter how tired you think you are when your alarm clock goes off, force yourself out of bed if you want to have a productive morning.

Multitasking

Multitasking is a real productivity killer. Research conducted at Stanford University confirms that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people, based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitasked a lot and felt that it boosted their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who liked to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch!

Putting off tough tasks

We have a limited amount of mental energy, and as we exhaust this energy, our decision-making and productivity decline rapidly. This is called decision fatigue. When you put off tough tasks till late in the day because they’re intimidating, you save them for when you’re at your worst. To beat decision fatigue, you must tackle complex tasks in the morning when your mind is fresh.

Using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed

This is a big one that most people don’t even realize harms their sleep and productivity. Short-wavelength blue light plays an important role in your mood, energy level, and sleep quality. In the morning, sunlight contains high concentrations of this blue light. When your eyes are exposed to it directly, the blue light halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and makes you feel more alert. In the afternoon, the sun’s rays lose their blue light, which allows your body to produce melatonin and start making you sleepy.

By the evening, your brain doesn’t expect any blue light exposure and is very sensitive to it. Most of our favorite evening devices—laptops, tablets, televisions, and mobile phones—emit short-wavelength blue light, and in the case of your laptop, tablet, and phone, they do so brightly and right in your face. This exposure impairs melatonin production and interferes with your ability to fall asleep as well as with the quality of your sleep once you do nod off. As we’ve all experienced, a poor night’s sleep has disastrous effects upon productivity. The best thing you can do is to avoid these devices after dinner (television is OK for most people as long as they sit far enough away from the set).

Eating too much sugar

Glucose functions as the “gas pedal” for energy in the brain. You need glucose to concentrate on challenging tasks. With too little glucose, you feel tired, unfocused, and slow; too much glucose leaves you jittery and unable to concentrate. Research has shown that the sweet spot is about 25 grams of glucose. The tricky thing is that you can get these 25 grams of glucose any way you want, and you’ll feel the same—at least initially. The difference lies in how long the productivity lasts. Donuts, soda, and other forms of refined sugar lead to an energy boost that lasts a mere 20 minutes, while oatmeal, brown rice, and other foods containing complex carbohydrates release their energy slowly, which enables you to sustain your focus.

Bringing It All Together

Some of these habits may seem minor, but they add up. Most amount to a personal choice between immediate pleasures and lasting ones. After all, the worst habit is losing track of what really matters to you.

 

By Travis Bradberry –
Source: click here

Posted in Parenting

Wonder

Last night, my wife and I went to the theater to see the movie Wonder.

WONDER tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial deformation that, up until 5th grade, had prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters his fifth-grade class.

Wonder is an earnest and emotional family drama. Auggie meets both cruel bullies and good friends as he attends school for the first time; his supportive family (including his parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) is always there for him — even when he tries to push them away. The movie has clear positive messages about choosing kindness, appreciating everyone for who they are (rather than what they look like), true friendship; empathy and perseverance.

If you’re looking for your next family activity and your kids are middle schooler or older, take them to see Wonder. It’s important to get involved in your kids’ media lives -– and your kids will love it too.

Talk about it. Help them become critical media consumers. When credits roll or the next day, make time to chat about what you watched. Kids might be interested in learning more about animation or Hollywood history. Visit the library to follow up on interests piqued by the movie. Talking with kids about how movie characters handled situations can be a subtle way to reinforce your family’s values or get kids to open up about their lives.

Check out these conversation starters:

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT …

  • Families can talk about how the other kids react to Auggie in Wonder. What do they learn about him over the course of the movie? What do you think you’d do in their position?
  • How does being bullied affect Auggie? How did you feel about Julian by the time the movie was over? What role does peer pressure play in some of the bullyings? How would you handle the situation that Jack Will faces?
  • How does the story show the importance of empathy and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?