6 Nutrition Tips to Enhance Mental Performance


By Shannon Thompson

My professional specialty is mental performance enhancement. This means that it is my job to optimize the mental skills of people, and guide them in the direction of further skill growth. Most of my days are spent talking with individuals who are chasing meaningful goals. I address numerous mental challenges related to these goals, and work with them using a wide range of strategies. My techniques often aim to strengthen focus, manage emotions, increase motivation, reduce performance anxiety, or simply provide exercises to those wondering what they can do to maximize their efforts. 

Some of the people I work with respond better to my methods than others. I’ve always accepted this variation in responsiveness as inherent to the nature of any craft. One common factor that impacts responsiveness is underlying mental health issues. Lingering struggles with anxiety and depression certainly affect a person’s ability to utilize mental performance...

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Loving Expansively


By Shannon Thompson

Recently I was walking through the streets of Philadelphia on my way to breakfast with some friends. I noticed a man, about my age, crossing the street behind me. I smiled hello. 

“Why are you smiling so much?” he called to me.

“Because I’m soon to have coffee!” I joked. “The coffee’s that way!” I laughed and gestured in the direction I was heading.

“No one smiles,” the man said. “Are you spiritual?”

“Yes,” I said, turning and slowing, walking backward to meet him. “Are you?”

“Of course!” The man said. “I love you, have a good day!” he called.

“You too!” I said.

“No!” the man said, stopping to face me on the sidewalk. “I. LOVE. YOU.”

Honestly, I’d been unsure if what the man had called to me initially was “I love you.” If I’d been sure, I’d have said it back right away,...

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9 Reasons People Hold Secrets


By Shannon Thompson

What makes you want to keep a secret? Why are people slow to disclose details about themselves despite wishing to have close relationships? Confidentiality, trust, and secrets require discretion and judgment. Our secrets are tightly wired to our emotions and they pulse with a sensitive, intermittent charge along the boundaries of our familiar internal territory. 

Why does exploring our secrets feel threatening? Talking about them triggers the reactive armor that covers our vulnerable places.  Secrets guard our most defenseless reaches. We can be hesitant to explore these places because we fear the emotions that exposing our vulnerabilities might trigger. Often, our fear rises out of a lack of understanding the situation and our feelings about it. We’re not always clear why some things feel like they need to remain so secret. Most of us are afraid of what we don’t understand, and discussions in this territory can be uncomfortable. Perhaps...

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The Story of Success

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

People love to muse about the qualities that distinguish humans from other animals. Humans make and use fire. Humans can plan for the distant future. Humans love Taylor Swift. Although, in fairness to animals, I understand that there are a number of cats who live with Taylor Swift and love her. Even so, people are clearly cut from a different cloth than that of squids, rhinoceroses, and sloths. One of my favorite differentiators is the ability to tell stories. Baboons and skunks don’t do that. In fact, some scholars have referred to humans as “the storytelling animal.” People write books, they tell jokes, they make movies, they regale each other with embarrassing personal anecdotes, and they create job resumes. Each of these is an example of our storytelling acumen. 

Interestingly, telling stories is as psychologically beneficial as it is natural. For example, stories entertain us and provide an interesting distraction from...

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Emotional Vibrancy Explained

By Elaine O'Brien

Would you like to experience, and generate, more joy and energy in your life? Do you want to wake up in the morning feeling ready to embrace a bright, beautiful new day? If the answer is “Yes,” you can actually learn to cultivate your emotional vibrancy.

Emotional vibrancy is the quality of harnessing zest, positive energy, and radiant, glowing health. Emotional vibrancy can offer us a sense of calm and inner peace even during life’s challenges. Becoming more emotionally vibrant can act as an antidote to distress, feelings of being lost in life, and help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Having emotional vibrancy means having the energy to carry out your day-to-day activities, the strength and flexibility to be at home, work, and play, with vigor and enthusiasm.  

People with emotional vibrancy tend to engage in activities that bring them joy, rather than barely getting through the demands of the day before collapsing on...

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From Dreaming to Doing

By Gabriele Oettingen

Many have claimed that good intentions for the New Year are doomed to fail anyway. Indeed, in a carefully done study more than half of the participants reported that after only three months they had failed on their New Year’s resolutions. So, you might say, there’s no need to try, right? Since these resolutions don’t work, I better refrain from making them in the first place.  And another plus: I will not be disappointed when I fail to act on them. 

But, wait. I’ll argue that refraining from New Year’s resolutions is a mistake. You will forfeit your opportunity to have a better 2020. You’ll also miss out on your opportunity to start something new, to encounter a turning point, and to gain valuable insights. 

I will show you a five-minute mental exercise based on my decades-long research in the science of motivation. This exercise will help you to seize the opportunity of making an effective New Year’s...

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If Life is a Game and You Want to Win, You Have to Play

By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that playfulness is a personality trait that you either have or do not. Instead, you should think about playfulness as a skill that can be learned. Which is reassuring, because playfulness is widely beneficial.

My grandfather had many virtues, but being playful was not among them. He was a hard worker, disciplined, detail oriented, and generous. He was not, however, quick with a joke, fond of teasing, or known for his boisterous laugh. To give you a better idea of what he was like, family lore holds that one day, while farming, he accidentally sliced off the tip of finger with a thresher. Apparently, he finished his shift of work before heading to the hospital. Similarly, we inherited his diary after his passing. What do you think filled those pages concerning a trip to Alaska? Was it wonder at the spectacle of nature? Was it humor over social misunderstandings while interacting with the Inuit? Nope. It was a...

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The Achievement of Meaningful Moments


By Shannon Thompson

The man stands wavering. His frame is so thin he appears lost in his clothes. His grey eyes bear the haze of starvation, and yet they flicker with the flame of bright thought. A concentration camp prisoner, he has witnessed atrocities and also achievement. Achievement? You might ask, what is there to achieve in a place where everyone has been stripped of every freedom? This man will turn and he will look at you with the severity of a final breath; he will speak to you with an edge in his voice that has been sharpened by suffering. Some of the most noble achievements of humankind, he says, happened right here in this place before his eyes.

This man, Viktor Frankl, is an exemplar of resilience. Many of you are likely familiar with his most famous work: Man’s Search For Meaning – a slim, searing account of Frankl’s years in Nazi camps, the majority of which he composed over two inspired weeks upon his release. Within it he wrote: “Everything...

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How Comparison Can Boost Confidence

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Graduate school prepares a person in many ways. Students learn how to ask great research questions, how to run ethical studies, how to conduct sophisticated statistical analyses, and how to write in a scientific way. But, if like me, you are a happiness researcher, there is something that graduate school does not prepare you for: the fact that everyone I meet has an opinion about happiness. Some people want to explain to me their views on the secret to happiness, or the relationship of money to happiness, or on common obstacles to happiness. Interestingly, among all the hundreds—if not thousands—of lay opinions I have listened to, there is one explanation of happiness that emerges time and again. People widely believe that happiness has something to do with “social comparison.”

Social comparison is just what it sounds like: it is the way that a person contrasts her own standing on some quality against that of other people. If...

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DIY Performance Psychology


By Shannon Thompson

“What can I do for you that would make the difference?” I ask myself this question every summer when I reflect on my work from the prior year. Professionally, I am a mental performance specialist. My job is to help you be who you want to be, consistently, whether you are an Olympian or a High School student.  Most of my clientele are high-level athletes, but really, my methods are applicable to anyone trying to achieve anything. 

 What if you’re hungry to realize your best, but you don’t have access to an expert to help you? Given that the majority of people fall into this category, I’m often asked what tips I would give to those who are unable to come speak with me personally. So here they are!  A summer of my recommendations for anyone wishing to experiment with performance psychology strategies on their own. Here is my most basic working framework, presented in a way that enables you to support yourself in...

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