Archive for May, 2011
When setting up an exercise program that is right for you, focus on what you enjoy. Whether it be swimming, hiking, dancing, working out on exercise machines while watching television, team sports, skating, raking the lawn, splitting wood, walking, etc., etc., etc… any kind of exercise that you enjoy is acceptable! You can do the same kind of exercise every day. Or vary it according to the weather, what you feel like doing or what you need to get done. It may help if you make a list of exercise options and post it in a convenient place. Then you can look at the list and decide each day how you are going to get your exercise. This makes exercise more interesting for some of us.
Sticking To An Exercise Program
Like most people, you may have had difficulty beginning or sticking to an exercise program. Perhaps one or several of the following suggestions would help.
- Consider your exercise time as fun or “play” time, not as work. – Ask friends and/or family members to exercise with you.
- Reward yourself each time you exercise or after you have followed your exercise plan for a specific length of time. Eventually the benefits of exercising are enough reward.
- Combine exercise with other strategies you use to keep yourself well, such as 1) your need for light exposure, 2) time for focusing on positive thoughts, 3) connecting with family members and supporters.
- Schedule exercise at the same time each day to provide structure and routine..
- If you find it difficult to exercise in the winter and in bad weather you may want to get a piece of exercise equipment such as an exercise bicycle or rowing machine. You can often find these “used” at very low prices.
- Avoid sabotaging yourself. If you miss a day, several days, or even weeks of exercise, don’t give up and stop exercising. Just start in again. If you have a long hiatus or have stopped exercising because of an injury or illness, start again gradually.
- It may help you stick to your exercise regime if you keep a record of your exercise. Each time you exercise, write a few sentences in a notebook, describing what you did, how you felt before you did it, how you felt after you did it, and any short or longer term benefits you are noticing. This is a strong motivator if you review your writings from time to time..
Walking deserves special focus because it is often the easiest, most convenient and best exercise for many people.
No special equipment is necessary except a good pair of walking shoes..
It costs nothing.
It is non-competitive, so feelings of not being as good as others don’t come up.
You can walk anytime, anywhere that is safe. Walking in the countryside or in parks that have natural settings has the added benefit of communion with nature.
You can walk in whatever you happen to be wearing. You don’t have to change your clothes or shower after walking..
It is very unlikely that you will incur the type of overuse injuries that occur with some other types of exercise
The Flat Earth Society was founded in Victorian England to preach one simple belief: Our planet is not a sphere. This was not a metaphor. Followers believed, quite literally, that we all inhabit a large disc, with the North Pole at the center and a large wall of ice at its edge. This particular brand of magical thinking pretty much died out in the early 20th century, though a few hangers-on were still around to accuse NASA of fraud when the agency published photographs that clearly showed a blue orb spinning in space.
The last Flat Earther supposedly was spotted in California, near Los Angeles, some years ago. But the term endures in our cultural idiom, where it has come to mean any dogmatic, rigidly anti-scientific thinker: Creationists, holocaust-deniers, indeed anyone who insists on an irrational belief, all meaningful evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. The label also suggests an in-your-face, mean-spirited kind of stupidity.
Are we being too hard on Flat Earthers? Let’s look at the evidence. Psychologists have long been interested in why we make so many errors in logical reasoning and judgment. Why are we superstitious, for example? These scientists have been studying the human mind’s complex reasoning process, and there is today broad agreement on one fundamental idea: We have two very different cognitive machines working at the same time. One is a rapid, automatic, belief-driven machine, and the other is a slow and deliberate analytical machine.
When these dual processors are working in concert, all is well. The logic supports the belief. That’s why we’re not in mental anguish over widely-shared wisdom—the existence of subatomic articles, for example, or the structure of DNA. But what happens when our two mental processes don’t jibe? Psychologist Wim De Neys of the University of Leuven, Belgium, decided to explore this experimentally, to see how belief and logic slug it out in the mind. He also wanted to know if this cognitive interplay is different in smart and stupid people.
Since nobody really believes in a flat Earth anymore, De Neys had to find another way to study faulty reasoning in the lab. So he used syllogisms. He first sorted volunteers using a standard test of mental acumen, then had all of them work through a series of syllogisms. Some were logically valid, while others were not, and the volunteers had to determine which were which. Here’s one:
All fruits can be eaten.
Hamburgers can be eaten.
Therefore, hamburgers are fruits.
This one is easy, because not only is the conclusion ridiculous, the logic is obviously flawed as well. Even the stupid volunteers got this right immediately. But how about this one?
All mammals can walk.
Whales are mammals.
Therefore, whales can walk.
Again, the conclusion is wildly impossible, but to understand why requires some mental gymnastics. The syllogism is logical, but you have to stop and analyze a bit to realize that the false conclusion follows from a false premise—that is, that all mammals can walk. As De Neys reports in the journal Psychological Science, many people get this wrong: They fail to see the logic when the conclusion is so absurd.
But why? Here’s where the volunteers’ mental ability comes into play. De Neys added another mental task to the syllogism test, this one designed only to tax the volunteers’ overall mental resources. He found that the added mental demands were much harder on the slower problem solvers, causing them to default to their less rational belief system more readily. In other words, they lacked the cognitive capacity to rigorously reason themselves out of a wrong-headed conclusion.
So back to the original question: Are we being too hard on the Flat Earthers? Maybe, in a sense. Another analysis by De Neys showed that the slower subjects were not coming to their false conclusions because they didn’t try. They did indeed try to use their analytical skills, but their analytical skills were limited, so they failed. And the stupider they were, the more likely they were to fail—and to fall back on illogical beliefs. So creationists and holocaust deniers and other modern-day Flat Earthers may not be hateful after all. It may be that they really, really can’t think any better than that.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness, published by Knopf.
People make mistakes when they try to predict what will make them happy in the future, called “affective forecasting.” Anyone who has ever said “I think I’d prefer chocolate to vanilla” or “I’d rather be a lawyer than a banjo player” has made an affective forecast. And anyone who has made an affective forecast has found out the hard way that sometimes they are wrong.
Ten or fifteen years ago I was getting divorced, my teenage son was in deep trouble, my mentor died unexpectedly, my best friend and I had a serious falling out, and I was… well, not too bad thank you. Now, if you’d asked me a year earlier how I would feel if any one of these events (much less all four) were to happen, I would have told you that I’d be devastated for a long, long time. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t euphoric, of course, but I wasn’t nearly as distraught as I would have imagined. And that made me wonder whether my mistaken predictions about the emotional consequences of events like these were unique to me or shared by others.
Every generation has the illusion that things were easier and better in a simpler past. Dead wrong. Things are better today than at any time in human history. Our primal ignorance is what keeps us whacking each other over the head with sticks, and not what allows us to paint a Mona Lisa or design a space shuttle. We have great big brains that can foresee the future in a way that no other animal ever has, and in a way that our own species could not just a few million years ago. Foresight isn’t twenty-twenty, and sometimes it seems to be legally blind, but in general it allows us to glimpse the long-term consequences of our actions and to take measures to avoid the bad ones and promote the good ones. The “primal ignorance that keeps us happy” gives rise to obesity and global warming, not Miles Davis or the Magna Carta. If human kind flourishes rather than flounders over the next thousand years, it will be because we fully embraced learning and reason, and not because we surrendered to some fantasy about returning to a world that never really was.
You probably think it would be good if you could feel perfectly happy at every moment of your life. But we have a word for animals that cannot feel distress, anxiety, fear, and pain: The word is extinct. Negative thoughts and emotions have important roles to play in our lives because when people think about how terribly wrong things might go, they often take actions to make sure those things go terribly right. Just as we manipulate our children and our employees by threatening them with dire consequences, so too do we manipulate ourselves by imagining dire consequences. Sure, people can be so anxious that their anxiety is debilitating, but that’s the extreme case. For most of us, anxiety serves a purpose. It is what keeps you from sending your nine-year old to the rough part of town one night for a loaf of bread. If someone could offer you a pill that would make you permanently happy, you would be well advised to run fast and run far. Emotion is a compass that tells us what to do, and a compass that is perpetually stuck on NORTH is worthless.
I’d like to say that I am trying to understand errors in affective forecasting so that we can learn how best to overcome them. The trouble is that forecasting errors are not clearly a “disease” that requires a “cure.” Indeed, some people have suggested that inaccurate forecasts may play an important role in our lives. When we overestimate how good we’ll feel when things go right and how bad we’ll feel when things go wrong, we work harder to make sure the good things happen and the bad things don’t. Anxiety and fear are useful emotions that keep us from touching hot stoves, committing adultery, and sending our children to play on the freeway. Would it really be better if we all knew that in the long run, children and money don’t make us wildly happy and that illness and divorce don’t make us desperately sad? Perhaps, but perhaps not.
With that said, I’m willing to bet that on balance we are best served by accurate estimates of the emotional consequences of pains, tragedies, and embarrassments. If you were driving on a mountain road in a thunderstorm and your passenger asked whether there might be some benefit to turning off your wipers, you’d have to admit that there are some. For example, that horrible squeaking sound would stop. But you’d probably insist that the costs of turning off the wipers clearly outweigh the benefits because when you’re driving it is usually a good idea to see where you’re going. Well, we are all driving toward the future, and thus to my mind the same logic applies. If there are any hidden benefits of affective forecasting errors, I suspect they are offset by the costs.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Flow around the obstacle. Most persons feel frustrated when someone or something blocks them in some way. And most persons respond to the feeling of frustration by immediately wanting the satisfaction of forcing the “obstacle” to get out of the way—or, if it won’t move, to curse it and insult it. The healthy response to frustration, however, requires a different psychological attitude than satisfaction. When feeling frustrated, sit back, relax, and wait. Say to yourself the following:
• You have put up with disappointments all your life; you can tolerate this one too.
• Not getting your way is only disappointing or sad—not the end of the world.
• You don’t have to have everything you want. The world was not made just for you.
• In order to achieve pleasant results, I often have to do unpleasant things.
Look at things from the other person’s perspective. Have you ever casually stepped off the curb to cross a street when a driver turning the corner almost hits you? It can be enough to make you swear and bang on his car, right? Now imagine yourself as a driver, in a new neighborhood, a bit confused, traffic everywhere. You stop at a corner, about to turn right. You look all around, left, right, left again. It looks clear. You start to move. And then—where did he come from?! A pedestrian just stepped right in front of you and you barely saw him! So, think about it. Which person is in the “wrong”—the driver of the car or the pedestrian? Hmm . . . maybe both? It depends on whether you’re in the car or out of it, doesn’t it?
And that’s the point about perspective. Although some persons are truly selfish and inconsiderate, sometimes a person is simply distracted or confused, not maliciously trying to get in your way. Looking at the “other side” is called empathy, and it can go a long way to calming yourself down, keeping the peace, and fostering simple courtesy. By the way, when persons have difficulty understanding emotions and therefore lack the capacity for empathy, it’s called alexithymia.
Ask questions—You must ask questions that get to the cause of the problem. Avoid accusatory questions (“So, you’re late again! You’re seeing someone else, aren’t you?”). Ask open-ended questions that can’t be brushed off with a simple Yes or No. Here are a few examples:
• What angered you the most?
• What was the worst thing about it?
• Who were you angry at when that happened?
• What was going through you mind when that happened?
• How do you feel now just thinking of it?
Venting anger does not work. Even though it might give some immediate satisfaction, venting anger (called catharsis)—whether by yelling obscenities, making lewd gestures, honking the horn of your car, throwing or breaking things, or screaming insults—does nothing to dispel anger. More often than not, it actually pumps up your emotional arousal and may even prolong it.
Try the following:
Cool down. Remember the old, stereotypical advice about counting to ten before saying or doing anything when you first feel hurt? Well, it’s still good advice. That’s because the first reaction to hurt is purely physiological: you receive a rush of adrenaline to prepare you to take action in real danger. But when the hurt comes from an event that poses only a short-term threat—such as when a car cuts in front of you—or threatens your pride far more than your life and safety, then all that adrenaline surging through your body isn’t serving any meaningful purpose.
In most cases, simply taking a few moments to practice some simple relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, can allow your sympathetic nervous system’s arousal to calm down and dissipate by itself. Deep, slow breathing is an automatic physiological effect of being at peace, so when you deliberately take slow, deep breaths you are indirectly telling your body that all danger has now passed; as a consequence, your body will stop producing adrenaline and your arousal will cease.
Challenge your negative thoughts. The way we think has a lot to do with the way we feel, so changing your thoughts from a hateful, negative orientation to a calm, positive orientation becomes essential in managing feelings of hurt and insult.
• NEGATIVE: “[Expletive!] What a piece of [expletive] junk! Now we’re going to be [expletive] late!”
• POSITIVE: “OK. It’s a flat tire. There was nothing we could have done to prevent it. Let’s forget about being on time and just see about getting the tire changed. One thing at a time.”
Or look for a rational explanation:
• IRRATIONAL: “[Expletive!] What a [expletive] jerk! He knew this was an important [expletive] meeting! So why is he [expletive] late?”
• RATIONAL: “Maybe there was a traffic accident. Maybe they had a flat tire. Who knows? We’ll find out in due time.”
Canadian psychologist Robert Hare began studying psychopaths in the 1960s, and it’s easy to forget now — in part because Hare’s work has made the concept of the psychopath so commonplace — but a half-century ago, research on psychopaths was considered both obscure and largely irrelevant to understanding crime.
Back then, Hare says, there was a very clear consensus about where crime came from: Criminals were made, not born.
“In those days, social factors, environmental factors were the explanation for all crime,” Hare says. “When you’re born, you’re a blank slate, and I can train you to be anything you want — a doctor, a dentist.”
Hare, for one, didn’t fully buy this. He thought inborn personality was important. He says that as a psychologist, when he looked at people, he just saw incredible differences in temperament: differences in impulsivity, differences in the capacity for empathy, for feeling guilt.
“We have individual differences in intelligence,” Hare says. “Well, we should have individual differences in the personality traits that are responsible or related to crime.”
Hare set out to dissect the personality traits that might predispose people to criminality. To do this, he recruited the help of inmates at a prison some 30 miles down the road from his office at the University of British Columbia.
“The offenders in those days had hardly ever been studied,” Hare says, “and they were very interested in what I was doing. They would all volunteer. And in fact, one of the head inmates there — the one at the top of the heap — actually held a public address (because in those days they could congregate in groups of four or five hundred) and said, ‘Look, this sounds interesting, I’m in.’ And then everybody else said, ‘I’m in, too.’ “
Hare set up a lab and started pumping out studies on the prisoners.
In one experiment, he placed the prisoners in chairs and told them that in 30 seconds he was going to zap them with an intense electrical shock. Then Hare measured their heart rate to see if that information bothered them. Most of the prisoners were bothered, but a small subset weren’t.
“Most people show lots of emotional arousal, anticipatory fear, anxiety, while they’re waiting for the shock to occur,” Hare says. “Psychopaths, hardly any.”
Another time, Hare showed prisoners both highly emotional and totally neutral pictures — a picture of a rape, say, versus one of a table. And again, he measured their physical response.
He found that for most prisoners, the emotional pictures prompted a very different reaction than did the pictures of a table or chair.
“But with psychopaths, there’s no difference,” Hare says. “They treat these horrific pictures as if they were neutral pictures — no difference whatsoever between them.”
Ultimately, this work led Hare to theorize that people with psychopathic personalities were essentially emotionally deaf. They simply did not have the capacity to feel, in a firsthand way, emotions like empathy and love and remorse.
“It’s sort of like trying to explain to a colorblind person what the color red is,” Hare says. “Can we teach a colorblind person how to see red, what red is? You can have all the dictionary definitions you want, but the person will never quite get it.”
While Hare was making progress in his research on psychopathic personality, his work was still regarded as marginal, in part because the field of psychopath research in general was in chaos.
One major problem: the lack of a clear and standardized way to identify who was a psychopath and who was not. There was no way to measure psychopathy, as it’s known.
Hare says it’s hard to overestimate just how large an issue this is for a community of scientists.
“Science cannot progress without reliable and accurate measurement of what it is you are trying to study,” he says. “The key is measurement, simple as that.”
And so Hare decided to make a way to measure: a test for psychopaths.
Hare sat down with his research assistant and together they wrote down all the personality traits they’d consistently seen in the psychopaths they’d studied. Things like lack of empathy, lack of remorse, manipulation, egocentricity, impulsivity, superficial charm, psychological lying.
For each of these qualities, Hare wrote up a description so it would be clear what he meant by, say, lack of empathy.
Psychologists using the test were supposed to ask the prisoners a series of questions to determine whether the trait was present. If it was there, the prisoner got 2 points; if it wasn’t, zero; if the psychologist couldn’t tell, 1 point was awarded.
The test listed 20 traits to check, and so Hare called it the Psychopath Checklist. Scores were totaled at the end — 40 was the highest score, but anything over 30 certified the test taker as a psychopath.
Hare next tested his test to make sure that it was “scientifically reliable” — that two people using the test on the same person would reach the same conclusion about whether that person was a psychopath. In research settings, the PCL-R’s reliability appeared astonishingly good.
Voila! The test was born. It was 1980.
Hare’s PCL-R 20-item checklist is based on Cleckley’s 16-item checklist, and here is Cleckley’s original list of symptoms of a psychopath:
1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
3. Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms considerable poise, calmness, and verbal facility.
4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
5.Untruthfulness and insincerity
7. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
7.Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
8.Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience
9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness incapacity for real love and attachment.
10. General poverty ot deep and lasting emotions.
11. Lack of any true insight, inability to see oneself as others do.
12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness, and trust.
13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking–vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks.
14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.
15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated seX life.
16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way, unless it be one promoting self-defeat.
“…More often than not, the typical psychopath will seem particularly agreeable and make a distinctly positive impression when he is first encountered. Alert and friendly in his attitude, he is easy to talk with and seems to have a good many genuine interests. There is nothing at all odd or queer about him, and in every respect he tends to embody the concept of a well-adjusted, happy person. Nor does he, on the other hand, seem to be artificially exerting himself like one who is covering up or who wants to sell you a bill of goods. He would seldom be confused with the professional backslapper or someone who is trying to ingratiate himself for a concealed purpose. Signs of affectation or excessive affability are not characteristic. He looks like the real thing.
“Very often indications of good sense and sound reasoning will emerge, and one is likely to feel soon after meeting him that this normal and pleasant person is also one with -high abilities. Psychometric tests also very frequently show him of superior intelligence. More than the average person, he is likely to seem free from social or emotional impediments, from the minor distortions, peculiarities, and awkwardnesses so common even among the successful. Such superficial characteristics are not universal in this group but they are very common…”
“…It must be granted of course that the psychopath has some affect. Affect is, perhaps, a component in the sum of life reactions even in the unicellular protoplasmic entity. Certainly in all mammals it is obvious. The relatively petty states of pleasure, vexation, and animosity experienced by the psychopath have been mentioned. The opinion here maintained is that he fails to know all those more serious and deeply moving affective states which make up the tragedy and triumph of ordinary life, of life at the level of important human experience…”
1. GLIB and SUPERFICIAL CHARM — the tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. They have freed themselves from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example. >
2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH — a grossly inflated view of one’s abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.
3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM — an excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.
4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING — can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.
5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS- the use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one’s victims.
6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT — a lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one’s victims.
7. SHALLOW AFFECT — emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.
8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY — a lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.
9. PARASITIC LIFESTYLE — an intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline, and inability to begin or complete responsibilities.
10. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS — expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.
11. PROMISCUOUS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR — a variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of several relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests.
12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS — a variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use, and running away from home.
13. LACK OF REALISTIC, LONG-TERM GOALS — an inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.
14. IMPULSIVITY — the occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic, and reckless.
15. IRRESPONSIBILITY — repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.
16. FAILURE TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR OWN ACTIONS — a failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.
17. MANY SHORT-TERM MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS — a lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including marital.
18. JUVENILE DELINQUENCY — behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.
19. REVOCATION OF CONDITION RELEASE — a revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear.
20. CRIMINAL VERSATILITY — a diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This week, researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a startling finding: Couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40 percent likelier to divorce. The Swedes could not say why. Perhaps long-distance commuters tend to be poorer or less educated, both conditions that make divorce more common. Perhaps long transit times exacerbate corrosive marital inequalities, with one partner overburdened by child care and the other overburdened by work. But perhaps the Swedes are just telling us something we all already know, which is that commuting is bad for you. Awful, in fact.
Commuting is a migraine-inducing life-suck—a mundane task about as pleasurable as assembling flat-pack furniture or getting your license renewed, and you have to do it every day. If you are commuting, you are not spending quality time with your loved ones. You are not exercising, doing challenging work, having sex, petting your dog, or playing with your kids (or your Wii). You are not doing any of the things that make human beings happy. Instead, you are getting nauseous on a bus, jostled on a train, or cut off in traffic.
In the past decade or so, researchers have produced a significant body of research measuring the dreadfulness of a long commute. People with long transit times suffer from disproportionate pain, stress, obesity, and dissatisfaction. The joy of living in a big, exurban house, or that extra income leftover from your cheap rent? It is almost certainly not worth it.
First, the research proves the most obvious point: We dislike commuting itself, finding it unpleasant and stressful. In 2006, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Princeton economist Alan Krueger surveyed 900 Texan women, asking them how much they enjoyed a number of common activities. Having sex came in first. Socializing after work came second. Commuting came in dead last. “Commuting in the morning appears particularly unpleasant,” the researchers noted.
That unpleasantness seems to have a spillover effect: making us less happy in general. A survey conducted last year for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, for instance, found that 40 percent of employees who spend more than 90 minutes getting home from work “experienced worry for much of the previous day.” That number falls to 28 percent for those with “negligible” commutes of 10 minutes or less. Workers with very long commutes feel less rested and experience less “enjoyment,” as well.
Long commutes also make us feel lonely. Robert Putnam, the famed Harvard political scientist and author of Bowling Alone, names long commuting times as one of the most robust predictors of social isolation. He posits that every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10 percent fewer “social connections.” Those social connections tend to make us feel happy and fulfilled.
Those stressful hours spent listening to drive-time radio do not merely make us less happy. They also make us less healthy. The Gallup survey, for instance, found that one in three workers with a 90-minute daily commute has recurrent neck or back problems. Our behaviors change as well, conspiring to make us less fit: When we spend more time commuting, we spend less time exercising and fixing ourselves meals at home.
According to research from Thomas James Christian of Brown University, each minute you commute is associated with “a 0.0257 minute exercise time reduction, a 0.0387 minute food preparation time reduction, and a 0.2205 minute sleep time reduction.” It does not sound like much, but it adds up. Long commutes also tend to increase the chance that a worker will make “non-grocery food purchases”—buying things like fast food—and will shift into “lower-intensity” exercise.
It is commuting, not the total length of the workday, that matters, he found. Take a worker with a negligible commute and a 12-hour workday and a worker with an hourlong commute and a 10-hour workday. The former will have healthier habits than the latter, even though total time spent on the relatively stressful, unpleasant tasks is equal.
Plus, overall, people with long commutes are fatter, and national increases in commuting time are posited as one contributor to the obesity epidemic. Researchers at the University of California–Los Angeles, and Cal State–Long Beach, for instance, looked at the relationship between obesity and a number of lifestyle factors, such as physical activity. Vehicle-miles traveled had a stronger correlation with obesity than any other factor.
So, in summary: We hate commuting. It correlates with an increased risk of obesity, divorce, neck pain, stress, worry, and sleeplessness. It makes us eat worse and exercise less. Yet, we keep on doing it.
Indeed, average one-way commuting time has steadily crept up over the course of the past five decades, and now sits at 24 minutes (although we routinely under-report the time it really takes us to get to work). About one in six workers commutes for more than 45 minutes, each way. And about 3.5 million Americans commute a whopping 90 minutes each way—the so-called “extreme commuters,” whose number has doubled since 1990, according to the Census Bureau. They collectively spend 164 billion minutes per year shuttling to and from work.
Why do people suffer through it? The answer mostly lies in a phrase forced on us by real-estate agents: “Drive until you qualify.” Many of us work in towns or cities where houses are expensive. The further we move from work, the more house we can afford. Given the choice between a cramped two-bedroom apartment 10 minutes from work and a spacious four-bedroom house 45 minutes from it, we often elect the latter.
For decades, economists have been warning us that when we buy at a distance, we do not tend to take the cost of our own time into account. All the way back in 1965, for instance, the economist John Kain wrote, it is “crucial that, in making longer journeys to work, households incur larger costs in both time and money. Since time is a scarce commodity, workers should demand some compensation for the time they spend in commuting.” But we tend not to, only taking the tradeoff between housing costs and transportation costs into question.
How much would we need to be compensated to make up for the hellish experience of a long commute? Two economists at the University of Zurich, Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, actually went about quantifying it, in a now famous 2004 paper entitled “Stress That Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox.” They found that for an extra hour of commuting time, you would need to be compensated with a massive 40 percent increase in salary to make it worthwhile.
But wait: Isn’t the big house and the time to listen to the whole Dylan catalog worth something as well? Sure, researchers say, but not enough when it comes to the elusive metric of happiness. Given the choice between that cramped apartment and the big house, we focus on the tangible gains offered by the latter. We can see that extra bedroom. We want that extra bathtub. But we do not often use them. And we forget that additional time in the car is a constant, persistent, daily burden—if a relatively invisible one.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
If a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s essential that you take care of yourself and get extra support. PTSD can take a heavy toll on the family if you let it. It can be hard to understand why your loved one won’t open up to you – why he is less affectionate and more volatile. The symptoms of PTSD can also result in job loss, substance abuse, and other stressful problems.
Letting your family member’s PTSD dominate your life while ignoring your own needs is a surefire recipe for burnout. In order to take care of your loved one, you first need to take care of yourself. It’s also helpful to learn all you can about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The more you know about the symptoms and treatment options, the better equipped you’ll be to help your loved one and keep things in perspective.
Helping a loved one with PTSD
- Be patient and understanding. Getting better takes time, even when a person is committed to treatment for PTSD. Be patient with the pace of recovery and offer a sympathetic ear. A person with PTSD may need to talk about the traumatic event over and over again. This is part of the healing process, so avoid the temptation to tell your loved one to stop rehashing the past and move on.
- Try to anticipate and prepare for PTSD triggers. Common triggers include anniversary dates; people or places associated with the trauma; and certain sights, sounds, or smells. If you are aware of what triggers may cause an upsetting reaction, you’ll be in a better position to offer your support and help your loved one calm down.
- Don’t take the symptoms of PTSD personally. Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include emotional numbness, anger, and withdrawal. If your loved one seems distant, irritable, or closed off, remember that this may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.
- Don’t pressure your loved one into talking. It is very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make things worse. Never try to force your loved one to open up. Let the person know, however, that you’re there when and if he or she wants to talk.
Some resources that may offer you some support are:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Nail biting is a compulsive habit during periods of nervousness, stress, or even boredom. Nail biting is a common habit that starts from an early age. It occurs in all ages, but the most common age for starting is early teens. Nail biting makes the sufferer feel some sort of relief by keeping the nervous system intact which would give off a feeling of comfort or even relax them, even if it is only for a short period of time. In most cases it is done without the sufferer even knowing they are doing it and often people do it while they perform their daily activities i.e. reading a book, watching the television or even while socializing with friends.
The nail biter rarely thinks about the consequences of their nail biting, i.e. bad grooming, unattractive hands or feet, sores and redness around the area of the nail. This can then lead to more anxieties as the person would feel like to clean up all those rough bits around the nail to make them appear less unattractive. In more extreme cases the sufferer would be prone to get mouth infections from bacteria or germs under the nail being transferred from the nail to the mouth, or oral disease’s being transferred into the broken skin around the area of the nail causing infection and swelling. They could also scratch areas of broken or infected skin on their bodies thus spreading the infection to the mouth or hands. Some sufferers would keep their hand out of view from people around them to try and hide their embarrassing habit. If the person carries this habit into their adult life it can lead to dental problems like gum disease and with years of compulsive biting eventually damaging the teeth. This can be irreversible.
With all this in mind, nail biting can be a social embarrassment and could lower self esteem.
Treatments for nail biting depend on the severity of the habit. They require determination and commitment from the patient and support from their family. The first and most common approach people could take would be the non therapeutic treatments. Most parents trying to get their child to stop would coat the nail with a polish that has a bad taste, often this would stop the child but only as a temporary means. Adults or teens could try getting regular manicures to keep them neat and presentable or use artificial nails to protect the nail and help it grow. Some doctors would treat the condition with medication i.e. anti depressants but this could take time before it works and is not guaranteed to stop the habit altogether.
There are several types of behavioral therapies for nail biting. Habit Reversal Training (HRT) was developed for treating nervous habits such as nail biting that are done automatically. It is a procedure that involves stopping the bad habit by replacing it with a less harmful habit. It involves a breakdown of the behavior and what causes it. Sufferers for example could keep a diary of when the habit is occurring that way they can identify the stimulus and therefore have a better understanding of it and then try to work on that area in more detail. That could involve trying to avoid or change thoughts or actions that trigger the reaction by replacing them with less negative thoughts or actions. Relaxation training is another method to stop nail biting. It can also be great help as it teaches the client to center themselves and have more self control. Relaxation training involves becoming more aware of your breathing. Making each breath slow and deep, clients are encouraged to breathe in the nose and out of the mouth. This simple step is a natural way to calm a racing pulse and mind. The second therapy, Stimulus Control Therapy is used to both identify and eliminate the stimulus that frequently triggers the biting urges. With the stimulus being emotional or mental the patient could concentrate on what initially sets off this behavior. A therapist would be able to help the patient deal with their emotions in a positive and constructive way. The aim in this therapy is to be aware of what triggers nail biting and consciously try to change it.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Guilt is when you feel bad because you know you’ve done something wrong. Having feelings of guilt can be bad for you, but they can also be good. It all depends on the kind of guilt you feel, and why you feel it.
The kind of guilt feeling that can be good for you is called constructive guilt. Constructive guilt makes you feel bad about something you did that really is wrong—by anyone’s standards. For example, if you cheat on a test, you should feel guilty. It’s wrong. That feeling of guilt can lead you to feel angry and disappointed in yourself, and that will help you not to do it again. This kind of guilt is not bad for you; it’s your conscience.
The kind of guilt that can be bad for you is called destructive guilt. It makes you feel bad about something you did—or even just thought about doing—that really isn’t wrong. This kind of guilt is bad because you worry so much about what’s wrong with you that you can’t enjoy what’s right with you.
Destructive guilt can also be the kind you use as payment. This means you did something wrong, and you feel rotten about it. But then you go out and do it again, and again. You figure you’re paying for your mistake by feeling guilty about it. But that’s all you do. You never go beyond that to improve your behavior.
One thing you can do is to look at those things you do that are right, not just the things you do that may be wrong. If you get uptight and feel bad about every little thing you do that you or others don’t approve of, pretty soon that’s all you’ll think about. You’ll constantly feel guilty for not being a better person. But if you put the accent on what’s right with you, you’ll cut down on the amount of guilt feelings you suffer.
Another thing you can do is to learn more about those situations that cause you to feel guilty. For example, if you feel rotten when you blow up at your parents, learn more about parent-teen relationships. Talk to a teacher or counselor at school, or to a clergy-person. You’ll probably realize that it’s natural for you to lose your “cool” with your parents once in a while, that there’s no reason for you to feel guilty when this happens occasionally. When you learn more about why you act the way you do, you’ll know whether or not you really do have something to feel guilty about.
Since guilt can be such a strong motivator, some people use it against us. Making someone feel guilty when they don’t deserve it is a way that some people make others do what they want them to. Maybe your friends have said something like, “You’ve got to get your dad’s car so we can make the party. Otherwise, none of us can go.” That’s a way to make you feel guilt about “not being a good friend,” when, in fact, you’re just obeying the rules. It’s not a good way to act, and it’s not a good way to feel.
Guilt can be good and guilt can be bad. If you’re feeling guilty, think about why. Were your actions wrong? If so, how can you make up for it or change so as not to do it again? Or are you feeling guilty for no good reason? Is someone making you feel guilty and you don’t think you deserve it? Then talk to someone you trust about it. You can keep from getting down on yourself when you do make mistakes by remembering that you do a lot of things right, too.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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