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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Archive for June, 2016

Sunday, June 26th, 2016




For many of us, when we get hurt our natural inclination is to seek revenge. But that’s not good for our health! Dr. Hallowell stresses the importance of letting go of anger and resentment in his mini Distraction podcast episode #14,  It’s not easy, but the benefits are definitely worth it!


Forgiveness is a word we all think we can define until we actually try to do it.  If you poll a group of ten people, you will get ten different definitions.  My own definition of forgiveness draws upon the Greek root from which the word derives.  Originally to forgive meant “to set free.”  As I define it, when you forgive someone else you set yourself free of the hold that anger and resentment exert over you.  It does not mean, by my definition, that you set free the criminal, or that you allow the batterer back into your life, or that you love or even like the person who hurt you.  It simply means that you do all that you can to let go of the anger and resentment that have built up inside of you, thereby setting yourself free.  In this sense, forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.


It is much more natural for us humans to seek revenge once we have been hurt than to forgive.  Indeed, a fundamental law of human nature might resemble one of Newton’s Laws: For every hurt humans seek an equal and opposite hurt. It feels good to get even.  Revenge stirs our hearts and fires our imaginations.  Why forebear?  Why not settle the score?

In fact, medical science has proven to us that carrying grudges is bad for a person’s health.  It raises the levels of stress hormones and leads to inflammation which in turn leads to heart disease, stroke, and cancer, our leading killers.

And on a spiritual level, the chronically angry person is usually separated from whatever higher power he or she believes in.  Short term anger is good; it is like a sneeze.  It clears the air, and serves as a protective measure.  But long term anger pollutes the system of the person who carries it.


Forgiveness is a process, not a moment.  A person cannot snap his or her fingers and forgive then and there.  The deeper the hurt, the longer the process can take.  But, if you commit yourself to a path to forgiveness you will be much better off than if you commit yourself to a path to revenge.  Even if you never get there, you will be better off on the path to forgiveness than on the path to revenge.

Forgiveness can be mysterious.  It can come when we least expect it, or we can search for years but never find it.  Each individual must find his or her won way to forgiveness, but I offer the following four steps to suggest a way:

First of all, feel the pain.  You must acknowledge how you have been hurt.

Second, talk to selected people you trust and relive and reflect upon what happened.  You need to talk it out to help put it into perspective.

Third, ask yourself the question, “What do I want this pain to turn into?”  If your answer is something like peace or growth or wisdom, you are on your way.  Now start trying to spit the hook of anger and resentment that is stuck inside you.  This can take time.  Keep talking to others.  Consider how you yourself need forgiveness.  Also consider how you might be acting like a fool by holding onto your anger.  Keep working on it, and you probably will be able to spit the hook.

Fourth, take stock, move on, and teach others what you have learned about how to forgive.  This world needs help in learning the practical skill of forgiveness.  Once you have learned it, teach others what you know.  What worked for you will not necessarily work for them, but your example will most surely help.

Adapted from Dare to Forgive, by Edward Hallowell, M.D., Health Communications, Inc., 2004


Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Help Your ADHD Child: 5 Steps to Teach Healthy Management

Thanks to all who joined me in the Understood Webinar on Four Ways to Unlock the Strengths of Your Child with ADHD.  If you missed it, click here.

I’d like to share more information on helping your ADHD Child by using these 5 Steps to Teach Healthy Management.

How easily the gifts of ADHD are lost on a child amid negative comments from doctors, teachers, and even loving but frustrated parents. I believe that ADHD is too often misunderstood and mistreated because it is mislabeled as only a “disability.” In truth, practical strength-based techniques can put the talents, charms, and positive essence of children with ADHD ahead of any presumed shortcomings.

My best advice for parents is to take action now. Don’t fight it. Persist in finding new and different ways to support your child. If you address the following topics, and get the guidance you need, you’ll teach your children to manage their ADHD effectively by making plans that include healthy decisions.

1. Design a Comprehensive Treatment Plan.

Parents need to look at treatment as the unwrapping of gifts, not as the rectification of a disorder or the filling in of a deficit. Every treatment plan should include:

· Diagnosis (including identification of Strengths)
· Education
· Changes in lifestyle
· Structure
· Counseling and/or coaching of some kind
· Brain health
· A consideration of various other therapies

2. Promote the positives.

If your child feels optimistic about who s/he is and about what life has to offer, s/he will do far better than if s/he does not. I see the condition of ADHD not so much as a disorder, but as a trait. ADHD is as much a marker of talent as it is a potential problem. The problems can be taken care of. Personally, I am thrilled that my kids can think outside the box, are intuitive, persistent, and creative. They have huge hearts and a desire to march to the beat of their own drums.  Once they get a handle on what’s going on, people with ADHD tend to contribute to the world in a very positive way. Having ADHD is like having a race car engine for a brain with weak brakes. Once you strengthen your brakes, you’re ready to win races!

3. Pay Attention to the Family Dynamic.

This is a crucial issue. Often, families get into what I call “the big struggle.” Every morning and every evening, every weekend and every vacation, devolves quickly into conflict, bickering, blaming, and yelling, with doors slamming and, sometimes, physical violence. Obviously, this is not good. I strongly urge families to work with a family therapist to help break the struggle. You need a referee to make sure every voice gets heard and no one dominates.

Once you break the initial cycle, you can work with a therapist or a coach to set up structure, routines, contingency plans, and safeguards to prevent the big struggle from re-emerging.

4. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices.

This is basic, but it warrants saying clearly: healthy lifestyle choices, while good for everyone, are especially helpful for managing ADHD most effectively. Get more physical exercise, especially outdoors. Limit time on electronics. Eat family dinner together. Get enough sleep. Pray or meditate (yes, kids can do both!). Eat a diet that includes whole foods, excludes much sugar or additives, and includes lots of veggies.

5. Finally, my most important single rule for parents is this: Enjoy your children. Planning special time together greatly reduces the stress and anxiety that leads to many “bad” behaviors. Try to avoid using it for discipline, correction, advising and picking up messes. Have fun! If you are doing that, you are doing it right, almost for sure.


As a parent, it’s up to you to teach your child how to accept and manage life with ADHD. Don’t give up. Your success in addressing these 5 areas will lead to your child’s success, and a lot more joy for the entire family.

Adapted from Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child, Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Peter S. Jensen, M.D., Ballantine, 2008.

The Hallowell Centers in Boston MetroWest, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle offer comprehensive mental health diagnostic and treatment services to our patients and their families.

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Reflections on the Orlando Shooting

It’s difficult to talk about what happened in Orlando, but we must. We ask ourselves, “Why?” We seek answers. We don’t have the answers, but Dr. Hallowell wanted to reach out to you and share his heartfelt message in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Orlando.

Click here to listen.

As many of you know, he always advocates: “Never Worry Alone.” So let’s take this time to reconnect with one another.

Feel free to reach out to Dr. Hallowell with your thoughts. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

WORRY? Putting it in Perspective.

b076d124-629a-44f3-9808-27c6710b9d5d-thumbnailWhile a healthy level of worry can help us perform efficiently at work, anticipate dangers, and learn from past errors, excessive worry can make an otherwise sane person seem crazy, devoid of sound judgment, peace of mind and happiness. So how do you curb the anxiety associated with stress and toxic worry?
First, it helps to understand what I call the basic equation of worry. This is a good way to conceptualize where toxic worry comes from:

Heightened Vulnerability + Lack of Control = Toxic Worry.

The more vulnerable you feel (regardless of how vulnerable you are) and the less control you feel you have (regardless of how much control you actually have), the more toxic your worrying will become. Therefore, any steps you can take to reduce your feelings of vulnerability and/or increase your feelings of control will serve to reduce your feelings of toxic worry.
But how do you stay out of the paralyzing grip of toxic worry? If you’re walking through a minefield, how do you not feel so afraid that you can’t take another step? You need a plan. When you have a plan, you can turn to the plan for guidance, which immediately makes you feel as if you are less vulnerable and more in control whether you are or not. So whether the danger you perceive stems from the poor economy, a concern about your children, or a mole on your forearm that you think might be melanoma, you need a method to keep your fear from running wild so you can systematically dismantle the problem and take control.

10 Tips for Controlling Worry

  1. All worry is not bad. Identify all the things you worry about and separate out the toxic to your health worries from good worry. Good worry amounts to planning and problem solving. Toxic worry is unnecessary, repetitive, unproductive, paralyzing, and life-defeating.
  2. Exercise at least every other day. It reduces the accumulated noise and helps relax you.
  3. Repeat the mantra “I’ll fix what I can and, then I’ll put the rest out of my mind,” when you feel anxious thoughts emerging.
  4. Add structure to your life where you need it. Often disorganization, poor time management creates anxiety. To help get you on track and calm your stress, consider hiring an organization coach. BLUBERYL.org empowers individuals to identify, organized and master their organization skills. The National Association of Professional Organizers is another resource for finding coaches.
  5. Reality – test your worry. Regain perspective. Share your worries with someone who should know if what you are worrying about makes sense or if you have exaggerated it. So many of our problems are the result of overactive imaginations.
  6. Use humor. Make friends with amusing people, watch a Marx brothers movie, tune into Comedy Central or a humorous sit-com. Humor restores perspective; toxic worry almost always entails a loss of perspective.
  7. Get plenty of sleep. One good way to fall asleep naturally is to focus on counting your breaths. Inhale on 2-3 counts and exhale on 5-6 counts. This relaxes you and gives you something neutral to think about.
  8. Avoid watching too much TV or reading too many newspapers and magazines.
  9. Never worry alone. You often find solutions to a problem when you talk it out with someone. The mere fact of putting it into words takes it out of the threatening realm of the imagination and puts it into some concrete, manageable form.
  10. Develop connectedness in as many ways as you can – with family, friends, organizations or nature. Take up a hobby that could get you involved in a local group – bird watching, cycling, walking etc. Consider volunteering for an organization that you care about.

Listen to Dr. Hallowell’s Podcast discussion on Worry.

Adapted from: Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition
Edward M.Hallowell, MD, Ballentine, 1997

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Addicted to the Internet?

Internet addiction is a very real problem. With real consequences. And it’s way more prevalent than you think. America today is facing a crisis of disconnection.  Since the inception of the Internet, the development of video games, and the advent of cell phones, smartphones, iPhones, iPads, and other electronic devices, our world has changed more dramatically due to technological innovation than at any time in human history since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press six centuries ago.

New patterns of behavior that once were quirky amusements are now epidemic. Some are merely annoying habits, like a friend talking on his cell phone during lunch, but many develop insidiously into seriously maladaptive habits, compulsions, or even dangerous addictions; such as: texting while driving.

Like everyone else, we wrestle with the issue of what to do about what’s happening and the impact of electronic devices on our daily lives. We struggle to take control of how much time we spend on our devices. So what can we do about it?

1.  Educate yourself. It’s critical to be aware of how much time you spend on your computer and other devises. Has technology taken control of your life? Not sure? Then read 20 Symptoms of Internet Addiction  and find out.

2. Have a discussion with family or friends about your use of electronics.  Point out how you grapple with the over use of technology and ask for their help.

3. Set a goal of how much total time should be spent each day on electronics. Then break the total goal into time categories: how much time where, doing what, with whom.

4. Plan daily periods of abstinence. These “brain breaks” provide intervals of time in which no electronic device may be turned on. Yes, this will be difficult. So try beginning with 10 minutes twice a day. Then increase that time by 10 minutes a week until you reach 1 hour a day or whatever goal you all want to achieve

Learn more about internet addition and how to manage it in this week’s “Distraction” podcasts episodes #11 & mini #11, when you hear an emotional story from a woman whose whole life was changed because of it, and a millennial who struggles with his addiction every day.

Podcast website


reStart Center for Technology Sustainability

Dr. Greenfield and The Center for Internet ad Technology Addiction

If you have a questions about Internet Addiction , please send it to Dr. Hallowell using this link.

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