Ep. 24: Healthy Habits & Fall Sports

Ep. 24: Healthy Habits & Fall Sports

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How long does it really take to form a new habit? Chris and Karlie talk healthy habits and how to switch good habits for bad habits (00:33). Then they take a look at fall sports and everything that comes with them (11:40), including hoco, foco and expectations. Don’t miss episode 24’s tip on grief either (21:19). This episode is packed with information and tips you won’t want to miss.

Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey


Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

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How to Turn Negative Thoughts to Constructive Ones

How to Turn Negative Thoughts to Constructive Ones

As a teen, adults used to tell me “You are what you eat.” I never understood what they meant, but as I got older I began to understand what they were getting at. Essentially, that you are the sum of what you consume. Perhaps a better, more significant phrase would have been: “You become what you think.”

When I was a teenager, my thoughts almost ended my life. Whenever something bad happened, I immediately told myself I wanted to die. When I was in a good state of mind I knew I didn’t really want to die, but I began believing what my brain was telling me. I was stuck in this negative thought loop and didn’t know how to escape. Even worse, these negative thoughts weren’t just an inconvenience, they were making me more depressed every day.

James Allen, a philosophical writer, once said in his famous book, As a Man Thinketh:
“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

What I’ve learned since my teen years, with the help of books like As a Man Thinketh, is our minds must be managed like a garden. It’s up to us to plant good seeds and remove the bad weeds. Reading this book changed my entire perspective and it lit a fire in me to learn more. I embarked on a journey around the world to interview over 100 successful people on what they wish they knew when they were younger. Their advice was diverse, colorful, and extremely insightful, yet it all centered around this one core idea: It’s up to you to take responsibility for your life. This includes the thoughts you have. Meaning, it’s not your fault what thoughts you think, but it is your responsibility to evaluate which ones are worth believing.


Here are 3 simple steps for how to switch automatic negative thoughts to constructive ones:

1. Notice

Recent research from Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Lindsay and Cresswell has found that “mindfulness meditation can help people to be more attentive to their own emotions… by being aware of negative feelings as soon as they arise, people can engage in positive remediation rather than dwelling on the negative cognition.”

Notice what automatic thoughts come up for you in everyday situations. When something bad happens, what is the thought you automatically revert to? Is it as bad as “I want to die”? Or is it something like “I hate myself, I don’t want to be here.”

You might already know what yours are right off the bat, but if you don’t, start to be more mindful during your day and notice what recurring negative thoughts you have.

2. Prepare

The next step is to prepare a neutral thought. You will use this neutral thought to replace the negative ones. It’s best to prepare this neutral thought before you are in a state of panic.

What will your neutral thought be? I like to use “I am okay.” Yours can be the same or something different. When you are in a negative or depressed state of mind, it can feel really fake to say something like “I love myself” or “I’m happy to be here,” but a neutral thought like “Everything will be alright” is sometimes an easier place to start.

Write it down. Put it everywhere you can see it to remind yourself. You can put it on your wall, on your mirror, and even on your phone background.

3. Replace

Now, every time you think that recurring negative thought, stop yourself and say “No. I don’t have to think that anymore.” Then immediately replace it with your neutral one.

You might not believe the neutral thought. You won’t want to believe that you are actually okay. Tell it to yourself anyway. Again and again. Over time, you will automatically start to think your neutral, constructive thought rather than the negative one. This switch will help you stay calm in tough situations, rather than reverting to doomsday thinking.


These 3 steps take time and practice, but the positive change makes it so worth it! If this technique helped me stop being suicidal, it can help you and the teens in your life too. Get a hang of the technique first, then model it for the young people in your life.

When working with teens, don’t make them feel bad if that negative thought keeps coming up for them. The goal is never to shame someone for not making progress, but to lovingly remind them that no matter how many times they fail, they can always try again.

As a final reminder for you and the teenagers you work with, know you have more power over your mind than you think. It’s not your fault what thoughts come into your head, but it is your responsibility to decide whether you’ll let them stay there. You do not have to believe every thought that comes into your head, you always have an opportunity to fight back against the negative ones and replace them with more constructive ones.

Maeve Ronan

Maeve Ronan

Author, Speaker and Teen Mentor

Maeve Ronan is the author of multiple relatable self-improvement books for teens. She believes that every teen should have the resources to succeed, regardless of their circumstances. Her books are based on what she wishes she knew in middle and high school, as well as insights from accomplished people around the world. Author of It’s the Depression for Me and It’s the Awkwardness for Me, Maeve Ronan plans to release her third book, It’s the Confidence for Me, in November 2021.

The Power of Teamwork

The Power of Teamwork

Teamwork: cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause.

As the wife of a High School Basketball Coach, I spend A LOT of my time thinking about and cheering on good teamwork. It is not super fun to watch a team full of individuals who won’t work together. It can be frustrating and, more times than not, will lead to a loss.

But man…when you see good teamwork, you know it!

Let’s take the recent events of March Madness for example. My alma mater, Abilene Christian University (ACU), did the seemingly impossible and beat #3 seeded Texas in the first round of the NCAA tournament. As I was watching, you could feel the energy of the entire team – those on the court, and those sitting on the bench who would never go into the game.

In fact, one of the ACU players went viral as the “hype man” for the team. He was the first to start a defense chant and the one yelling the loudest, even though he never played a single minute of that game.

Today, it is significant when we see that level of selfless teamwork because it is often counter-cultural. I have witnessed incredible teamwork at the High School level over the years, but I have also watched players who only care about their own stats at the end of the game. Even in the midst of losses, they celebrate high-point averages and plays that will look good on highlight reels.

In a world where our kids are told to be the best at any cost (even to the detriment of the team), we need to be intentional about encouraging teamwork. And this doesn’t just apply to sports! Teams can take nearly any form: a group of friends, a family, a group project, a grade level, a team at work, or humanity as a whole.

What if instead of rewarding individual success, we celebrated the team player? Our families, schools, places of work, and communities would be more enjoyable if individuals were willing to take roles that would benefit others.

Let’s take a look at some of the roles that are worth celebrating…

The Utility Player
This person is willing to take any position that will give the team the best chance. They will set aside their own wants for the greater good, even if that role isn’t always their favorite. You gotta love the team player who is always up for a challenge – they are the one you want on every project or team.

The Hype Man
This team member will cheer for others, even when they aren’t the center of attention. This is the person who encourages, pumps up, and cheers for those around them. When you’re having a bad day or feeling pessimistic, you’ll want to turn to your hype man – they are the one who will pick you up when you fail and then celebrate the loudest when you succeed.

The Assister
This teammate does their best to make sure others succeed. Sometimes that means that they give up the “shot” so that someone else can score. This might be a person doing the difficult work behind the scenes or giving others information they need to make the right decision. Teamwork does not mean that you put others down so you look better. On a team, you win when everyone wins

It is important to celebrate the often over-looked positions on a team. But what does that look like?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask, “Who have you had a chance to help this week?
  • Look for ways to acknowledge the little things – in sports, in your family, at school.
  • Be the hype man for those in your life!
  • Ask, “Who has helped you this week? Who would you go to when you’re having a bad day?” Encourage those relationships!
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

Shifting Gears

Shifting Gears

We live in a world that invokes anxiety in even the most tranquil souls. A pandemic, social isolation, social media, job insecurity… the last 12 months alone have gone beyond the average social drama. Current reality is so far beyond the imaginable that even soap operas are losing their appeal.

As anxiety producing as current events are, isn’t it perhaps anxiety itself that has driven Americans to our current state?

When we are secure in our own well-being and sense of self, we are better at winning and losing graciously. We do a better job of looking out for others’ well-being because their well-being doesn’t feel like a threat against our own.

So how do we break the cycle? How do we help teens learn to regulate their emotions, and how do we teach them to be more empathetic?

The National Association of School Psychologists gave a press release in October 2020 on ensuring student well-being during the election. Although it’s framed in the context of school and the 2020 election, it’s one of the most comprehensive lists on shaping empathy and emotional well-being in kids and teens.

Here’s my general interpretation of their list.
Build a shared sense of community. It’s all about trust and respect: adult to adult; adult to teen; and everything in between.
Be the change. If you’re not, they won’t be either.
Help the people around you feel safe. No matter the political climate, no one deserves to feel marginalized or at risk.
Create an expectation of acceptance. Racism, systematic inequity or violence are never ok. Bullying is never ok.
Ask questions vs. leveling accusations or generalizing. Stay curious and encourage students to do the same.
Funnel interests and energy into positive actions. Taking action and helping others is empowering.

But how do we do that?

Dr. Lori Desautels, assistant professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, specializes in neuroscience in the classroom. She calls anxiety “our nation’s new learning disability” and is a strong advocate for co-regulation in the classroom, as well as explicitly teaching social-emotional skills.

Her methods are similar to Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) strategies and start with adults learning to calm their own anxieties in order to create a contagiously calm atmosphere. Instead of “managing” a household or a classroom, adults “co-regulate” emotions, equipping students with the skills they need to negotiate stressful situations and to learn.

The concept is not new, though it is easy to forget in the moment. By setting the example first and foremost, by “being the change,” we help those around us feel safe. We calm others’ state of “fight or flight” and set the groundwork for building trust and acceptance.

We can teach teens language to identify their emotions by responding to perceived defiance and arrogance with “That must feel very…” “This must make you feel…” “You sound so…” Desautels says instead of answering a complaint or encouraging their escalation, hear the feeling and mirror that. Wait for their response.
Using a 2×10 strategy strengthens trust and helps teens feel seen. Intentionally taking 2 minutes for 10 days in a row to ask about their passion or their lives is a game changer.
Creating a 5 to 10-minute ritual at the beginning or end of the period, interaction, or day creates ‘family privilege’ with teenagers. Because students live chaotic lives and often lack trust-worthy adults, working on mindfulness or Focused Attention Practices will support predictability and encourage a calm state.

When the stakes feel high, it’s hard. When we don’t feel that we have a network of people who help us co-regulate ourselves, whether at work or at home, it’s very hard. But it is essential work.

As parents, teachers and administrators, anxiety is a lion we must learn to tame daily with great intentionality. In doing so, we help position those entrusted to our care to thrive.





Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Marketing Assistant

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind. 

The Fake News Effect

The Fake News Effect

“We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that.” – The Truman Show

Social and political polarization is at an all-time high. Conspiracy theories, strong opinions, and stereotyping are taking over social media channels. I don’t point this out to scare you, but it is so important that we are well-informed, especially when it comes to what we are consuming online.

Earlier this fall, Netflix released a documentary called The Social Dilemma. It is full of eye-opening interviews about how social media and sites like Facebook, YouTube, Google, Twitter and others can manipulate users to stay engaged on the site so they can make money. It shares the dark side of the internet, but it is not something that is brand new.

One of the main problems that The Social Dilemma discusses is the danger of “fake news”. They quote an MIT study that found fake news on Twitter spreads six times faster than true news.

Think about that! Six times!

How are we (or our teenagers) supposed to know what is reality when false information is spreading at a much faster rate?

These social media platforms have algorithms that target users and often times put them in an echo chamber so that they will continue coming back to the site. As you scroll through your feed, you might think, “How can they believe that? Don’t they see the facts? Don’t they see the information I am seeing?” But they don’t. Their feed looks drastically different than yours.

The algorithm could set off a chain of events like this:

  • You like a friend’s post about their trip to Disney World
  • A video pops up about the top 10 attractions at Disney World
  • You go down a rabbit hole of watching families take surprise Disney trips
  • A Disney Vacation group is recommended
  • Events coming up at Disney start popping up on your feed
  • You see ads for Disney travel agents, plane tickets, and Disney hotels

And it goes on and on…

This is a light-hearted example of how social media can take you down a path where you find yourself on a plane to Florida for a week-long vacation at Disney World. But it can also manipulate your thoughts on COVID-19, the election, and more. It can quickly give information you agree with and polarize you from others who maybe weren’t originally that different from you.

The Social Dilemma said, “We have less and less control over who we are and what we really believe.”

This can have devastating consequences when we start sharing news sources that haven’t been checked, or when we share information that is false or exaggerated. It is so important that we do a “Fake News Check” when we are going down our rabbit holes online. Here are a few things that you might find helpful as you try to navigate what is fake vs. reality:

Check your source.
Remember your old research paper days when you had to cite sources? Channel your favorite English teacher and start digging into the content you see on social media. Before you share or like a post, ask some of these questions: Is this source credible? Is it unbiased and backed by evidence? Is it current? Does it properly cite quotes and research?

There is so much information on the internet. It is easier than ever to find an article or story that backs your beliefs, but is it accurate? Is it reality or are you falling into the fake news trap? Checking your sources is a great place to start!

Follow different voices.
When you are scrolling through social media, do you see the same opinion over and over again? Does everyone you follow look and sound like you? Especially lately, it has been so tempting to unfollow and unfriend people who hold different opinions than me. There are definitely times where it is healthy to unfollow toxic accounts, but I would encourage you to make sure you are reading posts that might challenge your worldview – it is vital for growth and empathy!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get caught in an echo chamber where I am not open to the thoughts and experiences of others. Be intentional about who you follow and how you can grow.

Start conversations.
When you start to go down that rabbit hole, talk to someone. When you are getting worked up because of what you are seeing in your Facebook feed, run it by someone else. When you are overwhelmed, set up some boundaries. Just being aware of the fake news trap is a good defense, but make sure you are surrounding yourself with people who will hold you accountable and engage in positive discussions. This is especially important for teenagers!

Here are some discussion questions that you can use to start a conversation with your teen or other loved ones about social media:

  • What are you seeing on social media this week? What have you been watching? What have you disagreed with?
  • Are there any boundaries that could help you manage social media and friends better? How can I help you with that?
  • What are some negative things about social media that you don’t enjoy? What is a positive thing about social media?

Social media isn’t going away anytime soon. But there are things that we can do to stop the spread of Fake News. There are boundaries that we can set to limit its influence in our lives. It’s time to start talking about it so we can take control back! Sit down with your teen, your spouse, your friend and start a conversation this week.

*If you want to see more posts on The Social Dilemma, head over to our Teen Life Impact Facebook Group. It is a group for adults to find support and resources. We promise to check our sources 😉

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Marketing & Development Director

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

Ask Culture and Guess Culture

Ask Culture and Guess Culture

I was scrolling through a Facebook group recently and one of the members shared this Tumbler post. For the original post the author is referencing, see here. To summarize the post, someone who lives in New York has a friend asking to stay in his home. The first time he and his wife had a ready excuse. The second time, he’s asking for advice on how to say no to the request, and essentially what would be the nuances of rudeness in a direct NO versus another excuse.

There are the predictable myriad of comments ranging from “How could she?” to “What’s wrong with asking? Just say no.” One of my favorite comments is, “If you need an excuse, tell her you’re going out of town. If you need an honest excuse, go out of town.” Who actually goes out of town to avoid saying no?

Until one reader leaves this comment:

This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.

Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signaling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at (pace Moomin fans) the Cluelessness of Everyone.

As you read through the responses to this question, you can easily see who the Guess and the Ask commenters are. It’s an interesting exercise.

Mic drop.

The concept of Ask Culture and Guess Culture really struck a chord with me.

I have spent the vast majority of my life as a Guess. As a teenager, I very rarely conflicted with anyone, because I avoided all conversations that might result in a no or any other kind of conflict. My parents called me the “easy child.” Other parents praised them for my obedience. I lived with a low level of very well-concealed anxiety that had me taking prescription medications to calm my stomach for a period of time. Everyone blamed school and stress.

In hindsight though, in the context of this comment, I believe that a fair share of that internalized stress was a fear of risk. A fear of the unknown, of failure, of a NO.

My father used to say, “What’s the harm in trying? The worst that can happen is they say no.” And logically, I knew it was truth. But emotionally, it was terrifying.

The commenter is right. The farther I wandered from home, the more I was forced to learn to interact as an Ask, but it is a conscious decision every time. In my heart of hearts, I’d really rather wait until the answer is 99% Yes before we talk about it. The only real exception is when advocating for others. Somehow asking is easier when it doesn’t feel selfish, right?

As a parent, I’m with my dad. I want my kids to ask fearlessly and not to dwell on the No’s when they happen. I want every question to be valid and heard, even when it doesn’t produce the desired result. And even then, the balance between bulldozer and fearless self-advocate is essential. I don’t really want kids who ask for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. Ask respectfully, but ask away!

So moving forward with this new awareness of the two ways to view the world, I’m hoping to be more intentional about fostering an Ask Culture in my home, by validating and honoring requests, even when the answer is No. As a Guess though, I’m suddenly aware of what I’m modeling. Am I being overly cautious or am I just being polite?

What about your experience and Culture? Are you an Ask or a Guess? Is your spouse the same? Are your kids the same? How does it affect your household interactions? How does it affect your teens in school?

Tell me in the comments. I’m fascinated and I want to hear more! 

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Marketing Assistant

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind.