Optimism and Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness month. In my research of over 3000 people across the lifespan, I found that an optimistic outlook can keep depressive symptoms at bay, whether you are 16 years old or 60 years old.

So what is optimism? In my study, optimism was captured by the idea that you have a positive and hopeful view of your future. Watch below for 3 ways to boost your optimism.

Proprioception & Working Memory on the News - Good Morning Jax, First Coast News (NBC/ABC)

#ThisIsMe; Improving your working memory

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tracy Alloway is a mother of two, an author, a psychologist and an all-around adventure seeker. To improve your working memory she suggests being proprioceptively dynamic. Which for Alloway, means bring wrapped in silk and hanging upside down like Spider-Woman.

Why your child’s lies may be a sign of intelligence

Lying is a relatively common behavior in children. But it does take effort – and quick thinking! Children learn to lie as young as 2, but it’s not till they are older that they learn to lie well.

It is around 6 or 7 years when we begin to see a shift – not just in a better understanding of social rules and how to interpret them; but also in an important cognitive skill known as working memory. Working memory is the ability to remember and process information.

In my research, I wanted to explore whether how working memory is related to lying. This is an important issue as lying involves keeping multiple pieces of information in mind in order to tell a successful lie. You have to remember what you said – what you think the other person knows – and what you what to tell them (the lie). And remember what you said when you are asked about it later!

So we designed this study looking at 6 and 7 year old children. We first tested their Working Memory by asking them how many things they could remember, like the letters that were presented on a computer screen.

Then we measured lying behavior using something called the temptation resistance paradigm. The goal here was to present a situation to the children that would be tempting. We asked the children a series of questions, like “What does a dog make?” and gave them a reward for every correct answer.

The final question was about a fake cartoon – What is the name of the character in Spaceboy? But before they can answer, we leave the room and tell them not to peek at the card.

Our results revealed 2 things:

1)       Children can’t resist to temptation to peek and lie about it!

All of the children who peek lied about it when asked, as we discovered when we checked our hidden cameras.

2)       Children with good working memory tell good lies

These children were able to mask their lies by making their guesses seem plausible, like "Oh it’s is my favorite cartoon, I watch it every Saturday.” However, those with poor Working Memory would often mumble something like, “I don’t know, I just thought of it.”

What does it mean for a parent?

The good news is that lying behavior decreases, as children get older. There is less social reinforcement for lying – on the playground for example. So take heart that is your child does lie, at least they are smart

Making NY resolutions stick

Well January 1 has passed and you have made your  New Year's resolutions. If you want to be in the top 8% of people who actually keep to use resolutions then here are three things that you can do.

1. Go small!

It's the small changes that make a difference. For example if you would like to get fit the most important   decision to make every morning is "do I put on my flip-flops or tennis shoes". Putting on tennis shoes will make it more likely that you will exercise

2. Change your rewards

It’s not so much that rewards help you maintain your goal but the timing of your rewards. Psychology research shows that when rewards are received on an intermittent (unpredictable) basis – we are more likely to continue with that behavior. Rewards are also more effective than punishment, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet your goals.

3. Believe!

Self-efficacy, the belief that you can accomplish your goal, is a major factor in achieving your resolutions. In my own research at UNF, I found that the positive emotions we experience from doing an activity will fuel our self-efficacy. So if you are having a hard time convincing yourself that you can stick to your goal, take a moment and think about how good that activity makes you feel.