Monday, April 4, 2011

Five Tips for Making Difficult Decisions

When my husband had to choose which colleges to apply to, way back before I knew him, he consulted the Barron’s Guide to Colleges and became overwhelmed--there were too many schools, too much information, and he hadn’t a clue how to narrow down the options. And so, he threw the book down the stairs in frustration.  It landed at the bottom step, splayed open to a page describing Ithaca College. And that’s the way my husband decided that he would go to Ithaca College, which is the school he graduated from.  

That’s not a process I would recommend—throwing books and trusting that fate will make them land opened to the page bearing the right answer for you. And yet, though that particular approach seems far-fetched, it’s not actually that far off from the methods many of use for deciding which path to follow. Typically, when faced with a tough decision, we talk to friends, we try to consult our intuition, we see what the universe makes happen, trusting that the cosmic breeze will make the “right choice” drift our way. Some of us consult oracles and prophets. Few of use a scientific process to arrive at a conclusion, other than maybe listing pros and cons.

And yes, there are great processes you can use to narrow your options down. If you need help getting over anxiety that arises when you confront your choices, these processes can be of enormous help. They can help you to have much more clarity about what your choices actually are. And by the way, I’m not saying there’s no place for intuition. Rather, I’m suggesting that first, get clear on what’s already in your mind and heart by using the help of some great step-by-step methods, and then, if you want to add intuition to the mix, go ahead.

Here are some pointers and practices that may be of help:

  1. Go through your own process before talking to everyone else. Women in particular tend to like to collect everybody’s opinion before making a decision. While talking it through with your loved ones can be valuable, it can also steer you away from your own wisdom. Find out what you really think before investigating what your brother, neighbor, astrologer, and boss think. Trust that you do have some wisdom buried within, your own inner radar.

  1. Enlist the help of a partner or professional coach. This suggestion may seem to contradict the first step, but it really doesn’t.  Your partner or coach should serve as a sounding board, someone you can discuss your thought processes with. This person can reflect back to you what they hear and notice as you talk about your options—which is very different from telling you their own opinion. This is where a life coach can be so helpful.. Life coaches are trained to help you to see through your mental fog to know what’s in your own mind or your own heart.

  1. Try the Wise Choice Process developed by Skip Downing. This involves first asking yourself, “What are my choices?” and writing them all out. This activity alone can help you to see options that you haven’t considered. It can also help you to recognize that you have lots of options available. The next step is to list the probable outcome of pursuing each choice. Once you have those options delineated, discuss them with your partner or coach. The next step is to decide which choice you will commit to, but you may not be ready for that yet. Try the 10-10-10 Process, below, first.

  1. Use the 10-10-10 Process created by Suzy Welch. Here, you take the options you listed in the Wise Choice process, and for each one, write what the probable outcome of choosing that option will be in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. Go through this same regimen with each option on your list.

  1. Use an Enhanced Version of the Pros and Cons System.  Here, you devote a separate page to each of the options you listed in the Wise Choice Process. For each option, list out all the pros in one column, and all the cons in another. Then, assign each item a point value between 1 and 10. Count up all the values in the pro column, and then all the values in the con column to get a sense of what holds the most advantage for you. If the “winning” choice isn’t the one that feels best to you, it might be time to go talk to your friends, your astrologer, and of course, your coach.
 Hope this helps!
     Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen works with clients by telephone, Skype, and email. She also sees Hawaii  counseling clients in person. Visit her website at

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Getting Clear on Your Money Issues

    Just like there’s no corner of life that isn’t affected by oxygen, it may well be that no aspect of life is unaffected by money. True: in deep meditation, we don’t think about money, we don’t spend it, and we don’t want it. But lately, I’ve been realizing that my own spiritual bent has made me blind to a truth I’ve perhaps wanted to deny: this world really does operate on the basis of exchange, and the instrument of exchange most frequently used is money. If you want help getting over anxiety about money, first you need to understand your relationship to it.

    Money is always there in our lives, in the background, like the bass line in a rock song.  There’s always someone trying to sell us something, or we need something that requires money to obtain. We need money for food, for shelter, for comfort. We need more money to protect our health, to educate ourselves, to care for others. There’s our personal history with money that we carry everywhere we go, the financial legacy that our ancestors passed down to us, the attitudes our parents implanted in us, the spiritual ideas about money that we adopted. These attitudes are always with us, as is the background tape telling us to be sure we’ll have enough for the next thing.

    The desire for money is primal, just as is the desire chipmunks have for hording acorns. This is why so many loving siblings end up enemies when an inheritance is at stake. This is why so many otherwise compatible spouses end up hating each other. They don’t understand that the urge to have money and to horde is instinctual both in themselves and in their loved ones, akin to a survival need, and any loss of control of money feels like being deprived of food.  

    Many of us deny that money matters as much as it does. Either that, or we resort to magical thinking about money—“if I have the right attitude, the money will come.” Goodness knows, there are enough books and movies out there reinforcing this belief.  Because we don’t know how to think about money, because it’s uncomfortable, we throw our hands up in the air and say, “the universe will provide.” It’s the same attitude we bring to the subject of death, leaving the timing and method of our death in the hands of the universe but hoping there’s some magic involved in beating the odds, if only we stay positive. Money feels mysterious to us, like death, shadowy and transient, something we don’t talk about. (I do believe there’s truth to the idea that attitude affects both prosperity and lifespan, but creating wealth is about more than thinking positive.)

    I’ve been taking a Tapas Acupressure course on healing in relation to money and I’ve been amazed personally at how much there is to heal. I believe that most of us have issues to clear around money—whether those issues involve debt or earnings, having too little or too much, having shame around past mistakes, anger at having been ripped off, guilt at having exploited others, or fear about what may come.  And I think the first step in healing these issues is to bring them out of the basement of your consciousness and into the light. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can clear it using TAT or another similar practice.

    To begin to get clear on your own money issues, ask yourself these three questions and write your answers down:

    1. What about money am I not dealing with in my life?
    2. What is unfinished in my relationship with money or earning it?
    3. Where am I angry or ashamed or afraid in relation to money or earning it?
    Let me know if I can help!
    Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen is a certified Tapas Acupressure practitioner and life coach. She offers coaching by Skype and telephone worldwide, as well as in-person Hawaii counseling. Contact her at

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    When a Problem Won't Go Away

    Here where I live, on the island of Kauai, we have coaches and counselors and Reiki Masters and craniosacral therapists and Deeksha givers and channelers in abundance, as well as practitioners of every other possible healing modality you can imagine. Although many of my local clients have sampled generously from this extensive smorgasbord of therapies, trying one treatment approach after another, they still suffer terribly from problems that won’t clear. They still need help getting over anxiety, they still need help for low self-esteem, they still need help with trauma recovery, they still need help moving on.

    These people are sincere, and they are motivated. They really want to change. They are trying so hard, paying so much money to all the practitioners they see, dedicating so much time to healing, and still, they have an issue that just doesn’t budge. They may get some relief from the various treatments they undergo, and that is most welcome, but the core problem still lingers so they try another practitioner, another method, or they read another book, and then another, and another.

    But it isn’t just my clients in this boat. In fact, most of us have at least one problem or challenge that won’t disappear. Why is it that these issues just won’t go away no matter what we do, who we see, how much we pray, how hard we try? Why don’t the healing modalities ultimately deliver on the promise of transforming the agony, erasing the distress, changing the habits or addictions or beliefs or circumstances?

    I believe it’s because most healing methods—including alternative methods--deal with symptoms, rather than root causes. Just as practitioners of Western medicine tend to give pills and prescriptions to alleviate patient ailments while failing to examine what caused the ailment in the first place, alternative healing, too, often focuses on alleviating the manifestation of distress—the anxiety, the headache, the insomnia, the depression, the addiction, the low-self-esteem, the fight with the spouse or the job now lost. When the manifestation of distress lessens—the insomnia stops, for instance--the client feels better for a while, but then the problem comes back because the root cause was never eradicated.

    On the other hand, sometimes the healing method focuses on the antidote to the problem—the visualization, the affirmation, the meditation, the placing of hands or needles or the tapping on the right spot, finding the right crystal, taking the right supplement, gazing upon the right Master. Again, this approach can offer some wonderful relief, but ultimately the problem resurfaces because the root cause still lives.

    You may think you’ve addressed the root cause, but if the problem persists—you probably haven’t, not really. And there always is a root cause, or maybe several root causes, whenever a problem won’t go away. That root cause may be buried ten layers down from where you think the root cause resides. So you work on what you suppose is the root cause, and still you have the problem. You probably just haven’t gone deep enough yet.

    A huge part of healing involves discovering what’s way underneath the surface of your problem. And very often, the thing that’s at the root of the root is some misguided belief. Even more central than the trauma that originally caused your distress may be some distorted belief that the trauma spawned. And the thing about the belief is that it’s invisible to you. It’s so deep, so much a part of your consciousness, that you can’t even see it. So, for instance, you might think the root of your problem is your father’s cruelty. You might remember a particularly traumatic episode with your father, and you assume this is where your anxiety stems from. Maybe your therapist agrees. You work on reducing the stress associated with that memory, on disrupting the energy field associated with that memory, but still you have the anxiety. That’s because beneath that memory is buried your belief--which was born at the time of the original incident—your belief that you are shameful and inadequate.

    No matter how much trauma-clearing you do, you won’t eradicate the distress as long as your misguided beliefs persist. These beliefs can cause inordinate fear, shame, anger, pain. They can make you feel that you are hopeless, helpless, shameful. They can totally sabotage your healing.

    So you have to be willing to do the work, the real work, of drilling down deep to see what belief resides behind the manifestation of your problem. No matter how many massages you get, how many times you tap your acupressure points, no matter how many affirmations you chant—you won’t heal until you get beyond the symptoms.  If you still aren’t healing, you need to be very brave and very persistent, asking yourself over and over, “And what belief is behind this? And behind that? And then, behind that?”

    To heal your stubborn issues, use any method of self-inquiry that works for you. This can be difficult to do without help, so if you don’t have success healing yourself, reach out! I suggest you find a professional who works with uncovering distorted beliefs and can offer a method like Tapas Acupressure technique or another energy healing modality that disrupts old patterns of belief and allows you to invite healing energy in to establish new beliefs.

    Blessings, Hiyaguha, The Life-Change Coach

    Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen is a Ph.D. life coach certified in Tapas Acupressure Technique. She works with clients by telephone, Skype, and sees Hawaii counseling clients in person.

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    A Surprising Fact About Fighting in Relationships

    If you think it’s the horror and ugliness of fighting that lands so many relationships in the toilet, here’s something new to chew on.

    A recent study out of the University of Minnesota has found that those who recover well from fighting have a better chance of relationship happiness, no matter the intensity of the fight. Sure, horrible fights take their toll, but if you have a partner who gets over it quickly, that toll will be less. According to lead researcher Jessica Salvatore, “What we show is that recovering from conflict well predicts higher satisfaction and more favorable relationship perceptions. You perceive the relationship more positively."

    The cool thing is that only one of the partners needs to recover well for the benefits to manifest. So even if you’re the one given to moping and resenting after the fireworks subside, your partner can improve the relationship simply by recovering better than you do.  “If I'm good at recovering from conflict, my husband will benefit and be more satisfied with our relationship," Salvatore said.

    This means that having knock-down fights with your partner isn’t necessarily fatal to the relationship, especially if one or both of you can let the past be dust. Of course, the less fighting the better, but let’s face it: most relationships do have times of collision, and that’s simply reality.

    Perhaps accepting that reality—that fighting is a normal part of the relationship game--is one of the key components that helps people to get over fights. If you buy the Hollywood notion that love means you “fit perfectly and have no conflict” -- bumps in the road will seem catastrophic to you. But if you believe that fighting is inevitable and also survivable, you’ll have much more ability to recover from it.

    Another factor, the researchers say, is early childhood experience. Those people who had dependable, emotionally responsive caregivers as babies seem to have a better ability to recover from fights, compared to those who grew up with deficient or uneven care.  Salvatore says, "If your caregiver was better at regulating your negative emotions as an infant, you tend to do a better job of regulating your own negative emotions in the moments following a conflict as an adult." 

     Again, even if you had miserable upbringing and fighting leaves you ravaged, your partner’s resilience can make the difference. In fact, Salvatore says, “People who were insecurely attached as infants, but whose adult romantic partners recover well from conflict, are likely to stay together. What this shows is that good partners in adulthood can help make up for difficulties experienced early in life.”

    One thing that the researchers don’t mention is that recovery skills can be learned. Energy meridian healing techniques like TAT can help you get over conflict fast, and at a deep level. Instead of suffering after a fight, you can spend half an hour leading yourself through a session and emerge feeling just fine. Go to and get the free download to find out how to easily and painlessly help yourself in this way.


    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Valentine's Day Neurosis

    Every mental health clinician knows that patients typically spiral down on holidays. Certainly Valentine’s Day is a loaded gun, whether you're alone or in a relationship. If you’re alone, there’s the obvious dilemma of being lonely and ignored rather than showered with gifts and adoration. There are the self-tormenting questions that arise—why have I still not found someone? Why did he/she leave me? Will I ever, ever, ever find true love? Does true love even exist? Why does he/she have a partner, and not me? And so on. That’s one type of Valentine’s Day Neurosis—the “I was fine being alone just yesterday but today I feel crummy because nobody gave me a box of Russell Stover candy” variety.

    It may be some consolation if you’re single to know that for those people in couples, the day also can be fraught with difficulty. Valentine’s Day gives rise to many fights. It’s predictable that most mates fall short of the romantic notions their partners have in mind for them. The mate may forget the day entirely, or give a card that isn’t mushy enough, or give chocolate but no card, or a card but no chocolate—any number of disappointments are possible when expectations run high.  And naturally, expectations may run high because for weeks leading up to February 14, the media bombards us all with images of everlasting, ever-perfect love and constant ads for gifts you may receive if your mate really loves you.

    All this expectation spells trouble because it’s highly likely that your mate will have entirely different notions than you about what constitutes an adequate acknowledgement of your bond. Your mate may think three naked hours in bed more than suffices; you may be hoping for a vacation in Tuscany—and vice versa. Valentine’s Day neurosis convinces you that such disappointments—the lack of the hoped-for gift or the lack of the more-exuberant-than-usual display of affection--mean that you aren’t really loved. Any other day of the year you wouldn’t care if your mate got you an ugly card or only six roses instead of a dozen, but on Valentine’s Day, you suddenly care a whole lot. You want the fairy tale, the prince or princess who magically understands everything about you including your deepest whims, you want to be swept off your feet into lover’s lala land.

    On Valentine’s Day, we collectively regress into childish thinking about partnership, love, and romance. Maybe you’ve risen above all the hype and you feel nary a twinge even if nobody fawns on you—but many of us lose perspective. We feel truly lousy, rejected, alone, and depressed. For many of us, Valentine’s Day is a rotten, lousy, no-good, very bad day. It’s a day when we confuse the giver with the gift, when we confuse our own self-worth with our partnership status.

    It doesn’t have to be so. You can avoid falling prey to Valentine’s Day Neurosis. Try these things:

    If you are without a partner, do NOT give in to moping. Take yourself out on a special date. Go to a movie, have a great meal at your favorite restaurant, dress up, get together with your friends, see a comedy show, spend time in nature, write, paint, sing, celebrate the fact that you are here on earth. Remember that it will all be over in a mere few hours. If you start feeling sorry for yourself, let your mantra be, “I am a whole person, an integrated being capable of great love and great wisdom.” And above all, prepare ahead to have a session with your coach or even a friend. I’ll be available for emergency 30-minute “clear-the-distress” sessions all day. Just call or email.

    If you have a partner, scratch your wish list. If your partner blows it, remember the other 364 days. Get yourself what your partner didn’t get you. And just as for the singles, if you start feeling sorry for yourself, let your mantra be, “I am a fully grown adult, a whole person, an integrated being capable of love and wisdom.” And for you, too, if you know your partner is romantically challenged, prepare ahead to have a session with your coach or a friend. I’ll be available for emergency 30-minute “clear-the-distress” sessions all day. Just call or email me. See my website for more details.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Romantic Love CAN Endure

    “True love almost always fades, but money stays green forever.” That’s a quote from the 1957 Cary Grant movie, Kiss Them For Me. Yes, it’s a cynical sentiment, but it’s also a belief quite prevalent in our world. So many clients say to me that they don’t know if they will ever find lasting love because they don’t know if such a thing even exists.

    For those who want to believe in the “happily ever after” story in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s some good news. A series of studies have found that romantic love does not necessarily wither like sun-parched crabgrass and convert to boredom over time. In fact, science actually has found a way to measure the love response in the brain to prove this point. A new study out of Stony Brook University in New York hooked up subjects who had been in a relationship for varying lengths of time to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners while the subjects looked at photos of friends, strangers, and the one they loved. The results showed that when they saw the photo of their partner, the newly infatuated couples and those still in love after 20-plus years had similar brain responses.

    “We found many very clear similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” said study director Dr. Arthur Aron. Whether the subject was newly in love or still in love after many years, the reward and motivation centers of the brain were stimulated as well as the area of the brain associated with addiction to substances like cocaine upon seeing the photo.

    Other studies provide solid evidence that long-term love really does exist. According to research led by Bianca Acevedo and published in the Review of General Psychology last year, at least 13 percent of couples still experienced strong feelings of romantic love after being with their partner for more than 10 years. This research reviewed 25 previous studies on relationships lasting anywhere from a few months to many years, and found the main difference between new relationships and happy long-term relationships was that the obsessive component tended to diminish over time, but the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry remained strong.

    All research indicates that it isn’t mere luck that creates the magic of lasting love—it’s hard work. Those who stay in love, says Bianca Acevedo, “… are often very relationship focused. Their relationship is something that is very central to their lives, something they spend time on, work on, really care about.”

    But the real key to romantic endurance was perhaps best expressed by William Shakespeare, without the help of scientific studies endorsed by universities: “Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds… Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

    Blessings and Happy Valentine's Day in Advance,
    Hiyaguha, The Life-Change Coach

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    How to Stop Judging Others

    Last night at dinner, several of my friends started discussing the book, The Education of Little Tree. If you haven’t read it, the story tells about an innocent young Cherokee boy growing up with loving grandparents in a world unsympathetic to Native Americans. It’s a magnificent, lyrical, wise and sensitive story, perhaps one of the most beautiful books ever written, but ironically, the author, a man named Forrest Carter, was a white supremist who founded a paramilitary chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and wrote speeches for the racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace. He authored the famous, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” ditty. He also shot two people in a dispute over money, ran for governor on a white supremist ticket, and lied about his identity, even when being interviewed on the Barbara Walters show.

    Certainly it’s happened before in history that scoundrels have produced transcendent art, that nasty people have contributed great things to the world. In the case of Forrest Carter, the contradictions between his exquisite art and his malevolent life seem almost unfathomable. But is it really that unusual for we humans to house such extremes within ourselves—to be so amazingly sensitive and wise on the one hand, and so profoundly wicked on the other?

    That’s the question that another friend at the table raised. He’s a psychiatrist who is one of the nicest people on the planet, but he said that when stuck in traffic, he feels a genuine urge to murder someone—anyone, in fact. He suggested that we all embrace the same dichotomy—the divine angel within, and the evil devil, too. His profound honesty jolted me into self-inventory, and I had to admit that I have met the monster within myself.

    Okay, so we all know we have a dark side, and that the secret to being good is to choose the light within instead of the gremlin. There’s plenty of spiritual guidance out there telling us how to handle all that insecurity, anger, fear, sadness, and so on and flush it down the cosmic toilet. The idea is that by living right and cultivating light, we can, in fact, completely transcend our ugly side.

    But there’s a danger inherent in the quest to embrace our higher nature, and sometimes the self-actualization tomes forget to mention this. It is so easy to judge human darkness in others, and so easy to forget about it in ourselves. This is so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing—but it’s essential to remember. There is a treacherous place we all can step into in trying to “be spiritual”—a place where we not only judge others for manifesting what we have simply stopped paying attention to in ourselves, but where we delude ourselves into thinking we are entirely different from them. And while we might have overcome certain tendencies in ourselves, while we might embrace more light than the typical criminal, for instance—the second we think, “Oh, how could anybody do what he did?” we step into the land of denial. By mentally separating ourselves from those who act badly, we create more delusion, more ignorance, less compassion, less honesty within, less integrity and humility, and ultimately, more darkness.

    The next time you find yourself amazed at somebody’s ignorance or violence, immediately turn your attention to self-reflection. Ask yourself when you had your last ignorant or violent thought. Offer gratitude that you have found a way to move past such thoughts instead of acting upon them. Offer love to yourself for being such an amazing complex of various energies, for the beauty of the light and the dark all mixed together within you—for being a human. And then recognize that the “bad” person is a fellow traveler, not that different from you, and mentally offer compassion that the burden he or she currently carries is so dark and heavy.

    Blessings,Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen,

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Waiting for News? Eight Ways to Cope

    Lately, I’ve found myself in the position of waiting for news on many fronts. Waiting for medical news, waiting for financial news, waiting for job news. I don’t even like to wait in line at the supermarket—I get terribly restless--so waiting for important and potentially disturbing news isn’t something that I do easily. But of course, that’s life. Eventually you’ll take a medical test and need to wait for the results, or you’ll take an important certification test or a final exam that won’t be graded for a week, or apply for a job or a mortgage or a loan or you’ll ask someone to marry you and they’ll want time to think it over—all waiting scenarios.

    To wait calmly and gracefully challenges everything that's human within us. How can you cope with that in-between time, when you don’t know what you’re dying to know—yet? Here are some tips to reduce stress:

    Stay off the internet. Put that machine away. Doing research on the possible deadly illnesses you might have while waiting for the medical tests to come back won’t sway the results, and may work you up into such a frenzy that you’ll make yourself sick, even if your test results come back just fine. Researching foreclosures while waiting for the bank to review your refinance application won’t help, either, nor will going on while waiting to hear back from the person you just proposed to.

    Do NOT try to ignore the feelings you’re experiencing. Do NOT belittle yourself for feeling anxious. Your feelings are natural and universal and human and even instinctive. They are your system’s way of signaling you that it might be wise to prepare for a change.

    Create a safe space. Dedicate a particular spot in your home as your personal haven. Put objects that you love and that make you feel safe there, and then allow yourself the luxury of spending as much time as you need there.
    Stay off of caffeine. You probably have more than enough stress pumping through your system without speeding it up even more.

    Don’t try to numb yourself with narcotics. Drinking alcohol or doing drugs or overeating will make you feel lousy in the end.If you need a substance to help you relax, try valerian or melatonin, neither of which will undermine your health or linger in your system. Exercise can also help enormously with stress.

    Care for yourself like you’re a baby. You really need nurturing to help with the anxiety. Eat healthy comfort foods, get extra rest, take long baths.

    Allow yourself the indulgence of having comfort objects around you. Now may be the time to wear that special outfit, to sit on the couch with that fluffy blanket pulled up around your body, to watch your favorite movie again.

    TALK to people. Don’t isolate. Let others know what you’re going through. Ask for support.

    Practice whatever stress-reduction techniques or strategies for reducing anxiety that work for you, whether meditation, prayer, EFT, TAT, hypnosis, listening to music, calling your coach, and so on.
    What suggestions do you have for ways to reduce stress and anxiety and make it through the waiting time?

    Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen offers life coaching by Skype or phone and in-person Hawaii counseling.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Introverts are Biologically Different

    John Paul Sartre once said, “Hell is other people at breakfast.” Thank goodness I’ve never felt anything that misanthropic, but I will admit that sometimes when I’m at a party, after an hour of enjoyment, I find myself thinking that I’ve had enough, and that I want to just go read or watch a video. This becomes particularly problematic when the event is at my own house and I’m ready for everybody to go home. I’ve scolded myself internally about these inhospitable thoughts, but the other day I came across some research that changed my perspective.

    I’m an introvert, according to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This doesn’t mean that I always want to be alone, but rather, that I need periods of solitude in order to recharge my batteries. Extroverts, in contrast, recharge by being with others.(If you don't know if you're an introvert or an extrovert, try taking this assessment (the results should be similar to the Myers Briggs).

    Most people (70 percent of the population) are extroverts. We live in a society that values and rewards extroversion. Extroverts tend to have better health, more friends, they sleep better and have higher self-esteem than introverts. Because of these things, we commonly assume that introverts are less psychologically healthy and that they “got that way” because of some flaw in their upbringing.

    But studies show that introverts, in fact, have very different brain chemistry than extroverts. First, introverts have far more electrical activity in the brain than do extroverts, even when resting. Scientists think that extroverts might seek out the company of others just to get their “brain juices” flowing, while introverts need to limit input to avoid getting overwhelmed. “The levels of stimulation extroverts find rewarding can be overwhelming or annoying for introverts," according to psychologist Colin DeYoung, of the University of Minnesota.

    Extroverts have larger brain structures in the area responsible for releasing dopamine, which is the “feel-good” hormone. Experts think that extroverts may try to draw attention to themselves because they want the dopamine reward that comes when they receive praise and contact. For introverts, the reward isn’t quite as dramatic or compelling, and so they make different choices. The brain activity in introverts actually is centered in a different part of the brain—the frontal lobes and front thalamus—than brain activity in extroverts, which tends to center around the temporal lobes and rear thalamus.

    Introverts do have some advantages. First, they tend to do better in school. They have fewer divorces and fewer job changes. In fact, as intelligence goes up across the population, so does the percentage of introverts. More than 75 percent of those with IQs above 160 are introverted.

    The bottom line is that given the differences in brain structure and orientation, introverts and extroverts have different needs. Because our culture is so favorable to extroverts, introverts need to take their own need for quiet time and solitude seriously and buck the pressure to always be “on” and “available.” If you’re an introvert, you really do need that alone time, you really do need to cut yourself off from stimulation periodically, you do need time to think. This applies not only at home, but at work as well, during your work day You aren’t wired the same way that all your extrovert friends and colleagues are. Also, if you’re an extrovert reading this, you need to understand that your introverted loved ones aren’t shunning you when they shut down—they’re simply refueling.

    Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen offers life-coaching by Skype, phone, and in person in Hawaii. Contact her at