Social media, depression, and pre-teen girls

One of the most shocking changes to occur since teens and pre-teens started using cell phones is the DRAMATIC increase in depression and anxiety. I mentioned this problem in my blog, “Smart Phones, Depressed Teens” but this is such an epidemic (and I have a 13 year old using social media right now!) that I really want parents to understand what is happening, why it’s happening, and how to prevent it.

Our brains are the most valuable asset we have. The quality of your thinking dictates your emotions, and your emotions dictate the quality of your life. So, if you want your kids to be happy, healthy and successful, we’ve got to take a look at their brain health because kids are facing more challenges than any generation before.

One of the big problems our kids face is the CONCENTRATED and unprecedented amount of dopamine they are consuming. From rapid paced TV, to sugar, to text alerts and video games. Taking in this much dopamine is way more than our brains are wired to consume. It’s like giving cocaine to a child and hoping they come out ok. Lots of “highs” give us really strong “lows”.

I am offering a webinar on March 22nd, please click here sign up

I believe another reason why social media seems to be hitting young girls especially hard is something called confirmation bias. Confirmation Bias is a psychology term that means the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information that confirms what we already believe. 

Do you remember what it was like to be 13 or 14? Insecurity abounds! Girls this age tend to feel insecure about what they wear, what they look like, whether they fit in, what their friends think of them, all that external stuff. In days past, it was beneficial to our survival to spend these years studying the people in our tribe and making sure we fit in. But now, when girls have beliefs like, “I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, creative enough, athletic enough” they head to social media for a little “compare and despair”.

Let’s say a girl has a belief like “I have no friends” or “My life is so boring”. With “confirmation bias”, all she has to do is go online and she’ll discover she is right. “Look how everyone else is having fun but me. My friends all got together and didn’t invite me. My life sucks. Everyone else is having fun except for me.”

In “the olden days” you might have the thought “Nobody likes me” but then you’d go to school, someone would talk to you, sit with you and be friendly and it was harder to continue to believe that. With search engines, you can easily find confirmation for whatever you currently believe.

This problem is growing. Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen says that 51% of Americans will have some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime. But it’s not all doom & gloom! On the webinar, I will be talking about what a great OPPORTUNITY this is to take responsibility for our own mental and emotional health. With the latest technology and brain research, we know there are many things we can do to improve our mental well being. We can use our kids cell phone dilemma as a catalyst to understand and improve the quality of our minds. There are many ways to encourage contentment, happiness, and motivation in the brain, while discouraging worry, fear, and stress. If we learn the steps to unleash our brain’s potential and claim mastery over things that aren’t working for us, then our kids will learn to do the same.

I hope you’ll join me for this important topic.


Do you have to wake up a grumpy kid in the morning who doesn’t want to get out of bed?

Are you struggling to get your grumpy kid out to the door in the morning?

The first part of the day is stressful for many parents as they try to gently cajole their pre-teen out of bed. When gentle doesn’t work, they resort to pulling off bedsheets, yelling, threatening and other antics that make them feel resentful and annoyed that the day has now taken an ugly turn.

It seems like it’s your KID that is causing you to get frustrated in the morning. That if she was to wake up happy and on time, you could be happy, too. But it doesn’t work that way. Our feelings come from our thinking. There is always a thought that causes us to feel the way we do and it’s helpful to see what we are thinking, before we take action.

Have you gotten yourself into a power struggle without even knowing it? Beware of “right fighting”. If you and your kid are both fighting for to be right, no one will win. Perhaps you are thinking “A good Mom would start her day with a happier kid”. Blaming yourself or others leads to inconsistent parenting which doesn’t usually give us the happy house we are trying to create. Remind yourself that good moms have grumpy kids who don’t want to get up in the morning, too. This is not a reflection on YOU, or you kid, just a problem to solve.

Below is the problem solving strategy I love from “How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk” by Faber & Mazlish. Using this strategy will neutralize any power struggles or right fighting, while empowering you and your kid to solve the problem.

Do you struggle to understand your teenager?

Understanding your teen

Try this exercise to figure out what your teen (or child of any age) is thinking, feeling, yearning for and needing from you.

Sometimes teenagers act in ways that truly mystify us. We want to help them, ask something of them, or appeal to their sense of fairness or logic, but nothing seems to be working. If you’ve tried to put yourself in your kid’s shoes and still can’t understand them, this exercise is for you.

1. Pretend like your kid is a funny zoo animal. You are looking at them in their cage, totally curious and perplexed, but without emotion. You decide you’d like to study this animal like a Scientist would. (This won’t work if you are in worry, frustration, self-pity or any emotion other than neutral curiosity).

2. Ready?  Ok, Scientist, the next step is to EMBODY your teenager. Like an actor getting into character, you are going to BECOME your child. Think about his posture, his voice tone, volume and articulation. Think about the words he chooses. Imagine you are in his bedroom (or wherever he spends the most time.) Look around as though this is your room, your books, your backpack, your clothes, etc. Imagine looking at his phone as though it’s your phone, what’s on there? Who is contacting him? What does he look up when he’s bored? Think to yourself “I am (my teenagers name)”

3. BE your teenager and name 3 adjectives to describe YOU as your teen. For example, “I am tired, I am stressed, and I am lonely.” or “I am uncertain, I am nervous, and I am happy”

4. Then think to yourself this sentence, “What I yearn for the most is _______” and see what pops into your head. Then do, “I am _____ (teen) and the message I’m trying to send my Mom is………”.   (If you hear your own voice coming in or any of your negative emotions, go back to step one.) 

5. Finish this next sentence with whatever shows up in your mind, “What I need most right now from my Mom is ………” Try it again with Dad, siblings, etc. If this is working and you are learning from it, try adding on “When I look ahead to my future I feel ……”

This is exercise is easy for me because as a life coach, my empathy dial is always turned up very high. Not all of us practice tuning into others on a regular basis so be patient with yourself if you find your own thoughts and feelings don’t go away that easily.

Remember that the primary need for all of us, including our funny, teenage zoo animals, is to be SEEN, HEARD and FELT. When all else fails, stop talking, look them in the eye and just listen. There’s a lot of information coming through those howls and growls. 🙂

Where are your kids getting their dopamine?

Our bodies and brains are wired to release a “feel good chemical” called dopamine when we eat, have sex, or exercise. We also get a dopamine release from creating something, accomplishing something or being in the flow state of learning.

Our culture has introduced many more dopamine producing activities to younger and younger children: Sugar, caffeine, TV, movies, porn, youtube, video games, social media, are all designed to flood massive amounts of dopamine into our systems. Our current culture seems to promote fun, excitement, productivity and keeping busy.

The problem is that our brains and bodies aren’t designed for this much dopamine. Some experts theorize this is one of the reasons we are seeing such a huge increase in ADHD, depression, anxiety, addictions and other brain centered differences.

Not everybody reacts the same way. I can’t get out of shopping malls and casinos fast enough but I have family members who come to life and love the dopamine release of shopping and gambling. When my kids were little, my daughter could be in a room with the TV on and barely notice, but the TV had a hypnotizing effect on my son that turned him into a zombie. We tend to gravitate towards things that give us these delicious hits of dopamine. When we get rewarded with dopamine, it motivates us to come back for more….and more….and more.

Can your kid sit in a room with her favorite sugary treat and not be tempted? If you take away the cookie or the ipad, does your son hyperfocus on the object until he gets his dopamine hit? Can your teenager sit with her phone nearby and not be tempted to check it? Every text alert or social media “like” is designed to release dopamine and create addiction.

When we don’t reward our brains with dopamine (by checking our phone or eating sugar, etc.) we can create anxiety and insomnia. But overtime, the flooding of dopamine in our systems creates addiction and increased feelings of depression.

So basically, the world our kids are growing up is a challenge to their mental health.

What can we do?

  1. We need to become really deliberate about where we get our dopamine and not just follow a “If it feels good, do it” mantra.
  2. Observe ourselves and our children closely to see where we might be flooding our systems with too much dopamine.
  3. Re-wire the brain BEFORE we become addicted and show signs of depression and anxiety.

I have a lot to say on this topic and invite you to join me for a FREE Webinar called,

“How Much is Too Much?” Screen time, Dopamine and Mental Well Being.

In the meantime, here are a few life hacks below to help you and your kids conquer this challenging culture.

  1. Establish a Streak – Middle School kids have discovered a dopamine hit from “maintaining streaks”, or seeing how many days in a row they can text friends about silly things. Instead, establish a streak of how many days in a row you made your bed, walked your dog, ate a vegetable. Mark it off on a calendar and celebrate your victory. Check out the app Calm and start a meditation streak.
  2. Create Something – When we can get immersed in a project, creative or not, it can give us a healthy dose of dopamine. Many of us think of art or music but for me, creating webinars, class content and writing blogs count. Encourage your kids to create a Rube Goldberg, a fort, or cooking project.
  3. Seek balance. Don’t let your kid play a video game WHILE also watching TV (choose one!). Turn off ALL alerts on their phones so they don’t hear “So & so posted a new video!” No cell phones while studying, or in the bedroom while sleeping. Buy an old fashioned alarm clock. Try allowing movies and video games only if interspersed with exercise. Save sugar for special occasions.
  4. Music! Turn music OFF on video games but turn it ON while your child is doing an activity you’d like to reward. Playing music shoot hoops outside or while they set or clear the table, might help them linger and want to do it more often.

5-minute mood makeover for Moms

You’ve probably heard that practicing gratitude is a good thing to do. The problem is, when something is “good for us” and we hear we “should be grateful for what we have” we feel more obligated than elevated.

I’m not a morning person. I wake up slowly, quietly and a little grumpy. Starting my day by being grateful that I’m alive and that I have a good bed is an easy shift. If I try to be ecstatic first thing in the morning it feels fake. Thinking about my morning latte gets me out of bed but it’s not exactly the mood makeover I’m looking for.

If you really want to elevate your mood, to feel fully alive, appreciated, and full of potential, try being grateful for something you don’t yet have. Think about something you really, really, really yearn for: winning the lottery, swimming with the dolphins while sailing around the Caribbean, your personal villa on Lake Cuomo, winning a coveted award, having 20 more children, whatever your fantasy, write it down in full sensory detail. You are going to use your imagination to create a fabulous feeling.

I used to do this in high school. Instead of doing my homework on the 45 minute bus ride like the smart kids did, I fantasized about the one thing I thought would make my life better: the perfect boyfriend. What he would look like, how jealous everyone would be of me, how he treated me, I’d get off the bus like I was walking on air. (I think one of the reasons teens are struggling today is they are looking at social media to feel bad about what they have, instead of using their imaginations to create what they want….but that’s another blog post)

So let’s do it now!

Imagine you just won the lottery and the holy crap, OMG, mind blown feeling that would come over you. Notice the thoughts that run through your mind, “I never have to worry again!” “I can do anything I want” “I can relax!”.  Allow yourself to be grateful and wowed by this amazing gift! Write down everything you would do. Where would you go? What would you do there? Would I find you Zip Lining through the rain forest of Costa Rica? Skiing all day in Vail then cozying up by the fire with all your loved ones in a beautiful mountain cabin? Sipping a Mai Tai in Maui while watching the sunset on the beach? Chocolate tasting in Brugge?

Imagine the expressions on your families faces when you told them the news. Who would you give money to? What would you buy for your loved ones? Imagine their reaction when they see the gift. Who would be the most excited? Would you have a “Pretty Woman” moment on Rodeo Drive with your fashionista niece? Would I see you at a car dealership with your teenage son? Checking out boats in Hawaii with your hubby? Touring estates in Carmel with your parents and a real estate agent?

Who would you hire? A personal organizer? A really good accountant? An interior designer? The most amazing teachers for your kiddos? A life coach for your husband? 🙂

Write down everything you can think of that you would do and notice how it elevates your mood? It’s important to pick the fantasy that speaks to your deepest yearning. Then, when you are feeling amazing, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do today to make my fantasy come to life?”

Aloha & Pura Vida!