In 2020, my blog in Psychology Today, “The Clarity,” reached over a million readers. One of my favorite topics is the science of mirrors and reflections. Though many have a love/hate relationship with the mirror, the mirror can be a doorway into greater self-awareness — and self-compassion.

Here are the most popular posts on how mirrors and reflections can benefit you. Click on the title to read the post.

What Mirror Meditation Can Teach You

A narrative script from my 11:11 minute TEDx Talk explains my journey with mirrors and reflections. I share how I use mirrors to teach others…

Photo by Edgar Pereira on Unsplash

Three ways to shift your perspective on loneliness.

Everyone has experienced loneliness. Yet, each person seems to think their experience is unique, which ironically seems to isolate us further. We might consider loneliness as a matter of perception. It is a state of distress or discomfort that you create when you perceive a gap between your desires for social connection and your actual experiences.

Some feelings of loneliness can be abated simply by engaging in social activities. Maybe it’s just a matter of finding someone to talk to or joining a social group. But the loneliness that people experience, chronically and over a long period, is often a…

Fake smiles, Real smiles

Photo by Laura Dewilde on Unsplash

Everyone knows how to fake a smile. We learn when to show and hide our genuine emotions from early face-to-face exchanges. Parents instinctively want to shield their children from negative social experiences. So they reward emotional displays that will encourage and facilitate acceptance from others. Children learn to behave in specific ways to receive social approval. Part of this process is developing a social smile to hide unacceptable emotions.

The social smile is often activated automatically. We may not be fully aware of it. We might smile reflexively to put the brakes on showing too much negative emotion in public…

What does loneliness look like in the brain?

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Social connection is fundamental to our well-being. Feeling close to other people promotes well-being, whereas disconnection from others can compromise mental and physical health. Yet, how the brain reflects our subjective experience of attachment to people has remained unclear until recently. How does our brain represent interpersonal closeness and distance? And, how might our perception of our social connections be related to loneliness?

Researchers reasoned that insight into how the brain represents subjective social connection might come from a close examination of the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). While the MPFC is known to activate in response to thinking about the…

A counterintuitive approach to dealing with a new reality.

If you’ve been quarantining for a while, you are probably tired of looking at your own face. People are experiencing “Zoom exhaustion” from the full-frontal exposure of their own and other people’s faces of increased size, intensity, and duration. You might also feel like you are under a microscope, because in a way you are. If you look away, yawn, or avert your gaze for even a few seconds, it’s instantly apparent to everyone. In-person meetings rarely require that we face others at this magnitude, nor do they require that we continuously see ourselves in the background.

Or maybe it’s…

As coronavirus spreads around the world, we are required to make radical changes in our daily lives quickly. Perhaps the toughest is social distancing. We need to stop seeing our friends, getting together in groups, and even touching each other. Social distancing means suppressing our deeply innate and evolutionarily hard-wired impulses for connection. It is doubly challenging because when humans feel threated and distressed, their natural need for close contact with others becomes even more urgent. So the impulse to be close to others may become even harder to resist.

Connecting with other humans naturally soothes our nervous systems. When…

When anxiety hits, it can make you feel disoriented as though everything is spinning out of control. You might feel immobilized, not sure where to turn — or engage in acts that you think will reduce the sense of confusion, but they only end up making things worse.

People may tell you to “stay grounded,” but what does it mean to be grounded? I see it as being aware of your body and present in your surroundings. But how can you get there when your mind has whipped you up in a state for anxiety and confusion?

I have written…

Want to get more done? Try this new approach to managing your most valuable asset: Time

Working from home has its advantages. For one thing, it saves time by avoiding a bustling, congested, and germy commute, skipping the beauty routine, and just working in PJs.

Yet, you may find it challenging to stay focused without the structure of a work setting. Do you ever find yourself puttering around doing endless chores that prevent you from getting down to serious work? When you finally do sit down at your computer, you keep getting distracted by social media, the latest news, or going down Google search rabbit holes — looking up at the clock 90 minutes later. …

Many people are aware of the idea that loving others starts with loving ourselves, but it’s still common to worry that banishing self-doubt and rumination is dangerous: That it could turn us all into pompous narcissists.

As a psychology professor, let me reassure you: That’s not going to happen.

I find that Valentine’s Day, a holiday that revolves around romantic coupledom, is the perfect time to remind anyone who is dealing with depression, loneliness, anxiety, or other mental health issues, that the longest and most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself.

It’s not shallow or vain to love…

Photo credit: Ben White

Be inspired by the latest ideas.

This year’s wonderful books offer new and uplifting perspectives, deep insights into current problems, and inspiration for positive action in 2020. Here are my favorites.

1. Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett

A professor at Yale University’s Child Study Center and founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence presents an evidence-based approach to managing our emotions. Brackett makes a persuasive case that our feelings aren’t impediments but provide important information that can change the quality of our lives for the better — when we give ourselves permission to feel. His prescription for healthy children (as well as their…

Tara Well, PhD

Psychology Professor | TEDx Speaker| Writer on the power of reflections. Look out for my book “Facing Yourself” 2022

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