| A Better You |

Flipping the Focus

Remind yourself that the unexceptional is the norm

Flipping the Focus
Shoshana Schwartz

It’s a typical Thursday morning, and you’ve just done your last carpool drop-off. You drive along savoring the quiet alone time, and reach home a few minutes later with nothing remarkable to dwell on. Your engine doesn’t stall, you don’t get stuck in traffic, you don’t witness any accidents, sudden storms don’t blind your vision, and no one calls with an emergency.

If you’re a fiction writer, or even just a natural story teller, the above narrative won’t make the cut. A memorable story is built on events that stand out as uncommon and/or intense. A day filled with unremarkable incidents is utterly forgettable, blending into the background of our daily experiences.

An unusual or exceptional event, on the other hand, disrupts the regular, expected flow of experiences. It creates a pattern interrupt, and will probably be remembered with little or no effort.

This can be a positive development, because it helps create lasting learning easily. However, what happens when the pattern interrupt is caused by an upsetting, frightening, or traumatic event? That event is going to be strongly imprinted on our brains. A single moment of fear can occupy a disproportionate amount of headspace. This is negativity bias: the tendency to remember negative events more strongly than positive ones.

If on that particular Thursday morning a truck swerves and misses you by an inch, the five seconds that pass while this transpires are going to create a much bigger imprint on your brain than the other 86,395 seconds that day in which nothing notable happened. You’ll remember those five seconds for the rest of the day. You might actually remember them for a month, a year, or even the rest of your life. You may find yourself avoiding the street on which the near miss occurred, or you may become nervous when driving near trucks.

Logically, you know that the chances of being struck by a swerving truck are minimal, but negativity bias makes logic feel irrelevant, or even erroneous. It creates anxiety that isn’t a result of actual danger, but of perceived danger, giving the emotional reaction the final say.

Understanding negativity bias won’t suddenly make all our anxieties disappear. However, occasionally noting its existence during calm moments, and pondering its original purpose, can make it easier to understand the dynamic at play when anxiety strikes. Instead of being swept away by fear, there’s a counterbalancing voice within that provides context, so we can allow ourselves to feel afraid while maintaining a normal course of action. Additionally, this counterbalancing voice can help us stay calm enough to employ techniques for grounding and self-soothing, such as breathing exercises, EFT tapping, or even simple humming.

By consciously making an effort to notice and articulate the security of the ordinary, we can intentionally create positive imprints on our memory. How might that look? Perhaps place a sticky note on your light switch with the question, “Did the power fail today?” If it didn’t, remind yourself that the unexceptional is the norm. Nurturing these positive observations can help create a “positivity bias” that can gradually shift our focus, allowing us to experience more tranquility and contentment.

Shoshana Schwartz specializes in compulsive eating, codependency, and addictive behaviors. She is the founder of SlimHappyMama.


Movement Is Medicine
Dr. Jennie Berkovich


eenage patients often ask me about safe ways to exercise. I love their initiative and always look for ways to support anyone looking to add movement to their day. A popular question from this demographic is about weight lifting.

Adolescence is a critical period of growth and development, and weight training programs must be designed with the unique needs of this age group in mind. While powerlifting and bodybuilding should be avoided, there are safe ways to exercise with weights.

When starting a weight training program, adolescents should begin with low resistance exercises and perfect their form before gradually adding weight in small increments (around 10 percent). Exercises should target all major muscle groups, including the core, and be performed with correct technique. Workouts should take place 2–3 times per week for 20-30 minutes each, with proper warm-up and cool down periods. Supervision is essential for the safety of adolescent weight trainers.

It’s also important to consider the individual’s physical maturity and any underlying medical conditions that may affect their ability to safely engage in weight training. While it’s a myth that lifting weights stunts growth, strength training must be properly supervised so it can actually strengthen bones and muscles, providing better support for growing bones and reducing the risk of injuries. Another myth is that weight training is only for athletes. All children can benefit from strength training; it improves posture, balance, confidence, and overall health. There is no minimum age to start to lift weights; rather the key factor should be the child’s ability to follow directions and safety rules.

And finally, my biggest pet peeve is the misconception that girls will develop bulky muscles from weightlifting. In truth, strength gains in children are primarily due to neuromuscular adaptations and neural development rather than significant muscle bulk.

Movement is medicine and I encourage all my patients to move in a way that is interesting and sustainable for them.

Dr. Jennie Berkovich is a board-certified pediatrician in Chicago and serves as the Director of Education for the Jewish Orthodox Medical Association (JOWMA).


The Stress-Fress Connection
Shira Savit

Stress has rightfully earned a bad rap; most of us know that it can manifest in various ways like back pain, illness, acne, and disruptions in metabolism and digestion.  There’s another less-than-positive aspect of stress: its impact on cortisol levels, often referred to as stress hormones.

Cortisol, which is elevated during times of stress, impacts the body in many ways. One effect of cortisol is that it dampens pleasure receptors. Consequently, when we eat a meal while under stress, we will not fully register the pleasure derived from the food. This physiological response prompts a subconscious drive to seek additional pleasure, which often leads to overeating and emotional eating. The sense of deprivation intensifies the desire for pleasure, which fuels a cycle of excessive consumption.

Overeating has many root causes; elevated cortisol can be one of them. When this is the case, instead of getting stricter with sugar and carbs, it might be more helpful to go softer: Have compassion for whatever is causing you tension, and think about baby step ways to lower the stress, a day at a time.

Shira Savit, MA, MHC, INHC is a mental health counselor and integrative nutritionist who specializes in emotional eating, binge eating, and somatic nutrition. Shira works both virtually and in person in Jerusalem.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 895)

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