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By Elaine K. Howley
If you’ve ever lain awake at night wishing for sleep, then you’ve likely experienced some form of insomnia. For those who struggle with this common sleep disorder regularly, the feeling of missing out on sleep can be excruciating. And the paradox of it is that the more you try to sleep the further away the sweet embrace of slumber seems to slide.
As awful as sleeplessness might feel, if there is strength in numbers, then you can take some small comfort in the fact that you’re far from alone. “The data shows that between 20 and 30 percent of people will be affected with insomnia during the course of their lives,” says Dr. Alex Dimitriu, a sleep medicine specialist who’s double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in California.
Although we know that sleep is critical to maintaining health and wellness for all of us, in some people, the drive to sleep is weaker than in others. “Not everyone has the same propensity to go to sleep,” says Dr. Jerald H. Simmons, a neurologist who’s triple board-certified in neurology, epilepsy and sleep medicine and founder of Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Associates, a clinical practice with offices in Houston and Austin. This so-called sleep drive can vary, as does each individual person’s sleep rhythm. This is why some people are night owls while others are morning people. And in some people, a weaker sleep drive is easily disrupted by any number of factors, which can lead to the development of insomnia.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, but not all cases of insomnia are the same. Generally speaking, there are two major categories of insomnia – difficulty falling asleep initially and difficulty staying asleep throughout the night. And the two may be quite different in how they’re addressed. “Don’t confuse going to sleep with staying asleep,” Simmons says. “You can’t lump them all into one category and say, ‘This is the medicine I use for insomnia patients.'” Rather, many people struggling with insomnia are going to need a treatment approach tailored to their specific problem.
Insomnia – More General Information
“In most people who have insomnia, it’s caused by something,” says Dr. Jesse Mindel, assistant professor of medicine and neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. And there are many factors that can cause both short-term and chronic insomnia including:
- Changes to your work or travel schedule. Jet lag and frequent changes to your work schedule, as can happen with shift work, can induce insomnia in some people.
- Concerns over work, school or health issues. There’s a reason why the saying “to lose sleep over it” exists. Concerns about any number of aspects of your life can lead to disrupted or poor sleep.
- Concerns about not sleeping enough. Simmons says some people “develop performance anxiety” about sleep and their insomnia is exacerbated by that anxiety. “They’re so worried they can’t fall asleep that they can’t fall asleep,” and it becomes a self-perpetuating problem.
- Poor sleeping habits. Engaging in stimulating activities in bed or being inconsistent in your sleep-wake pattern can lead to insomnia.
- Food and drink. How much, what and when you eat can also disrupt the quality of your sleep. Substances such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can have an outsized impact on your sleep quality, especially if you’re using them in the evening or just before bed.
- Age. Some people tend to have more trouble sleeping as they age, and many post-menopausal women report experiencing insomnia or a shift in sleeping patterns that’s related to changes in their hormone levels.
- Medical conditions. Some medical conditions, such as sleep apnea – a breathing issue that wakes you up multiple times a night – can disrupt your sleep and lead to insomnia. Restless leg syndrome is another condition that can turn you into an insomniac.
- Mental health disorders. Anxiety and depression can both greatly impact the quality of your sleep and your ability to fall or stay asleep.
- Medications. Some medications, particularly certain anti-depressants, steroid medications used for asthma, allergy medications, weight loss drugs and some blood pressure medications can cause insomnia as a side effect.
For many people, insomnia is a consequence of modern life. “A lot of insomnia is related to just being forced into a schedule that’s not natural,” Dimitriu says. Busy, stressful lives filled with electric lights and electronic devices that are constantly demanding attention and shedding blue light that disrupts the body’s natural signals to sleep are all implicated in our collective inability to just get some sleep. “LED lights produce a blue light that suppresses melatonin,” a hormone that governs when we feel sleepy, and this can impact your ability to both fall asleep and stay asleep. “There’s evidence that (after exposure to LED light) melatonin is suppressed through the whole night, so late-night phone play messes up the quality of the sleep for the whole night.”
The ubiquity of these screens and their ability to become a detriment to our sleep cycle is a growing problem for many people, especially those who are prone to insomnia. “We’re living in a very tech-heavy world with clocks and other built-in hard stops” to our natural rhythms. “We’re not adjusting to that,” and the evidence of that disconnect between the demands of the waking day and the inadequacy of sleep to meet those demands becomes vastly obvious when you look at the length of the line at your local coffee shop each morning, Dimitriu says.
Most people who have insomnia are well aware of the difficulties they’re having sleeping. Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty falling asleep.
- Waking up during the night and having difficulty returning to sleep.
- Waking too early in the morning.
- Not feeling refreshed after sleeping.
- Grogginess or tiredness during the day.
- Depression, anxiety and irritability.
- Cognitive issues such as difficulty focusing or concentrating on tasks.
- Making lots of mistakes in your work or noticing an increase in accidents or clumsiness.
- Anxiety about not getting enough sleep.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of sleeplessness, it might be time to visit your doctor for an evaluation. There can be a lot of factors contributing to your specific experience of insomnia, and your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and take a medical and sleep history to understand what’s going on.
You may also be administered a sleep test, which sometimes can be done at home but in other cases may need to be conducted in a sleep lab. These tests typically involve sleeping with sensors attached to your body to monitor your vital signs and look for other indications of physical disruption, such as changes in breathing or heart rate that could be causing you to wake up throughout the night. These tests monitor what you do in your sleep and are often helpful in diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other conditions that can disrupt sleep.
Ruling out underlying medical conditions should be a primary goal of any visit you make to a sleep specialist. “First and foremost, I want to rule out any other causes that could be feeding into the insomnia,” Dimitriu says. These other conditions may include:
- Restless leg syndrome.
- Sleep apnea.
- Thyroid problems.
- Use of substances such as alcohol or drugs.
- Other medical conditions.
“As a physician, first I need to eliminate all treatable medical issues. Then I look at substances” and other extenuating circumstances such as living too close to a source of late night noise or light. “Once you’ve eliminated those variables, you discover some people just have pure insomnia. This may be schedule-related or circadian rhythm related. Once we’ve eliminated all the scary stuff that could be treated medically, using a little medication or behavioral intervention can get people sleeping again,” Dimitriu says.
Treating insomnia and making sure that you’re getting enough sleep is an important aspect of overall health and wellness. While there are many things you can do to help ease yourself to sleep, one of the most important things is habituating your body to sleep and the ritual of sleep. “Rhythmicity is key, so having a regular bedtime and wake time and not deviating from that at all,” says Dimitriu. That, alas means “no sleeping in on the weekend, and no napping during the day.” The idea is that by forcing your body to stay awake during the day and adhering to a strict bedtime and wake time regardless of what else is going on, you can retrain your body to accept sleep when it’s most appropriate.
Simmons says many people who deal with insomnia have “poor sleep hygiene,” which means “they’re doing all the wrong things. They’re drinking caffeine in the evening. They’re taking naps in the middle of the day if they have the opportunity to,” and so on. Those sorts of actions “throw their biologic rhythm off. Those individuals need to wake up at a regular time in the morning. They shouldn’t sleep in and they need to get bright light exposure that will lower melatonin levels.” You want to increase the naturally occurring levels of melatonin in your brain at bedtime, and then help them drop in the morning when it’s time to get up and get going.
Other elements of good sleep hygiene include winding down from the day and creating a ritual around bedtime that helps your brain get ready to sleep. Switch off the television and step away from any other screens. Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
Simmons also recommends taking a hot bath shortly before bedtime to help you relax and get ready for sleep. “As we get drowsy our body temperature drops, and you’re going to sleep better in a cool room. So, if you take a hot bath before bed, that enhances that change in body temperature.” Just be sure to make it the last thing you do before bed. “That window of opportunity where the cooling will help is only 45 minutes to an hour,” he says.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, it might be time to see a sleep specialist for further testing or more specific treatment. Simmons says that for some people, particularly those who engage in shift work, a consultation with a sleep specialist might help them develop a good strategy for dealing with or avoiding insomnia. “Seek out a consultation with a psychologist or physician who is well versed in sleep disorders to work on a unique plan that’s tailored to your needs,” he says.
Sleep medicine was only recognized as a specialty field of medicine in 2007. Although the science is still young it is expanding, and today there are a growing number of specialists who can help you with sleep problems with a variety of techniques. Simmons says some sleep specialists are now using cognitive behavioral therapy, an approach common in treating mental health problems that can retrain the brain to sleep properly.
Another technique called neurofeedback is a form of “biofeedback using brainwave activity (to) train someone to put themselves into a state conducive to falling asleep,” Simmons says. Using this approach, patients “learn how to relax and we train the brain through this feedback process on how to wind down and go to sleep without medication.” It’s a process that’s similar to meditation. In fact, Simmons says “I jokingly refer to it as meditation on steroids.”
Dimitriu uses similar CBT and meditation techniques to help patients retrain their bodies and brains to accept sleep. The challenge with some of these approaches is that they take time and practice. But tired people aren’t generally well known for being the most patient among us, especially when it comes to sleeping more. “A lot of people say, ‘I slept well last night, why am I still tired?’ The answer is sleep debt takes time to replenish – on the order of about one to two weeks.” That’s why it’s important to keep at it and not give up if you don’t seem to have solved your insomnia problem after just a few nights. Think of it like dieting – it takes a while for your efforts to add up to results, but if you stick with it, you’ll likely see an improvement.
That’s why Dimitriu says it’s important to keep practicing and trying to sleep without the assistance of medication as much as possible, especially when the stakes are low. “It’s easier to practice driving in the parking lot than to practice driving on the highway. By the time you have a big meeting the next day and you can’t fall asleep, meditation can help, but you’d better be good at it by then.” Therefore, he says it’s best to “practice when it’s easy” and you don’t have that pressure of getting to sleep immediately.
There’s a multitude of meditation and sleep-inducing apps and programs available online these days, or a sleep specialist can design a program specific to your needs. And remember to be patient. “If you can learn to meditate, you’re pretty likely to solve your insomnia problem, but that takes time and effort,” Dimitriu says.
If you’ve got a dog, you’ll know that there’s nothing quite like a snuggle on the sofa while binge watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. They look adorable when they’re sleeping, our entire camera roll is basically delfies, and they give the best cuddles.
But did you know that sleeping next to your cute canine is actually really good for you? A study by The Mayo Clinic found that you get a better night’s sleep when you snooze next to your pet pup.
Researchers found that the 40 healthy individuals involved in the study slept better when next to a dog, no matter how big or small the pet in question was, or how much it moved in the night.
The Mayo Clinic’s Lois Krahn said: ‘Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption. We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.
‘Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximise their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.’
Another study found that we love dogs more than we love other humans (true), and even newer research shows that you get a better night’s sleep when you sleep next to a dog rather than a partner (true again).
The scientific study by Dr. Christy L. Hoffman, a professor in Animal Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation at Canisius College in New York tracked sleeping habits to find out whether sleeping next to a pet affects women’s sleep patterns.
And the results showed that those who slept next to a dog reported a better, more restful sleep than those who slept next to a cat, or another human. Apparently, dogs are less disruptive and we experience feelings of comfort and security when cuddling a pet pooch.
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Dr. Hoffman told Broadly that the ‘keyword here is perception, this study is based on individuals self-reporting how they feel their sleep is affected.’
She added that it is ‘important to note that this is based on aggregated data and an average of responses, so getting a dog won’t solve everyone’s sleep problems.’
If you haven’t got a dog, don’t worry – this is probably the most perfect excuse to get one.
When my wife and I promised the rest of our lives to each other, I doubt either of us suspected that life would involve quite so much TV. I am working long hours at the moment, and every day I call my wife and say something along the lines of: “When I get home, shall we just snuggle up and watch something?” She agrees, then when I get in we spend some time saying things like: “It’s just nice to spend some quality time together, isn’t it?”, ignoring the fact that we have just decided to stare in the same direction for a few hours before going to sleep. That sleep will involve two minutes of us pretending to want to cuddle before one of us executes a subtle reshuffle that frees us from each other. And so it will continue till one of us dies. I say “one of us”, but I have Sri Lankan heart manufacturing, so it will almost certainly be me.
We have this conversation every day as if we are coming to the decision afresh, pretending for nobody’s benefit that it hasn’t actually become our routine. I don’t mind it at all. I’m very happy and I think she is. Having said that, I haven’t asked her and I’m not good at reading signals, so it’s as likely she’s in the latter stages of preparing to leave me.
In fact, I would say it’s more than likely. I was playing “battles” with our youngest son recently – a game that involves us fighting each other while he repeatedly changes the rules until it’s impossible for him to lose – when he told me he had a secret daddy. I asked him who the secret daddy was and he said he couldn’t tell me because it was a secret, which made me feel very foolish for asking. I asked him again at bedtime last night and he told me he was joking and it’s me, which sounds exactly like the sort of thing a cheating wife would tell her son to say.
Routine is the supposed enemy of passion, and I am constantly paranoid that we are on the slide and haven’t noticed. We were at a restaurant a while ago and there was a couple next to us who ate their meal pretty much in total silence. I was so smug. “I hope we never get like that,” I said, like the judgmental little shit I am.
Bad move. The next time we went out for dinner, I felt self-imposed pressure to keep the conversation moving the whole time, trying to start chats with comedy “bits” such as: “What’s the deal with spaghetti? Eating it is like a Crystal Maze challenge, am I right?” Then my wife, also remembering that we thought we were better than that silent couple, would answer me as if what I had said was interesting, rather than saying what she actually felt, which was: “I would rather we were silent for ever than continue this conversation.”
It would be great if we were the sort of couple who did spontaneous things – the types who pop off somewhere for a weekend. But, actually, I prefer the type of people who accept how it really goes: passion, friendship, acceptance, tolerance and a hope that somebody dies before it gets to resentment. That’s love.
I have decided to drop the paranoia. What will be will be. If we want to be silent at dinner, we will. If we want to spend every single night tearing through Designated Survivor, we will. If we want to spend more time talking about the fantasy list of other people we would have sex with than about sex with each other, then we will. But, if she ever watches an episode of something we’re watching together without me, then I am afraid she’s going to have to spend the rest of her life with secret daddy.
life of Riley carefully hand-picks game-changing experiences and global events – each one is rigorously researched and checked, then grouped by genre, budget and month, so that they are simple and inspiring to browse. Rather than a booking site, this is an informative, one-stop resource for discovering the extraordinary – whether you’re looking for cultural kicks or push-yourself-to-the-limit sporting challenges. Here are eight of the very best things to do on the planet.
It’s becoming what’s known as a ‘sleep divorce’ and far from being a sign of a relationship in trouble, experts are saying it could be a good thing.
Perhaps one of you is a night owl, while the other is an early bird. If one partner often has disrupted sleep, then this can impact the other. Other reasons people sleep apart include different schedules, snoring , co-sleeping and even the temperature of the room.
“Poor sleep also can have negative effects on relationships,” PT reports.
“Lack of sleep may diminish the positive feelings we have for our partners. Researchers found people with lower quality sleep demonstrated lower levels of gratitude, and were more likely to have feelings of selfishness, than those who slept well.
“What’s more, poor sleep on the part of one person in the relationship had a negative effect on feelings of appreciation and gratitude for both partners.”
If this sounds like something you could both benefit from: “Tell your partner that you really love them but you’d be [less resentful of their sleeping habits] if you slept in separate beds.
“Suggest trying it for one or two nights a week and see how it goes.”
Every time one of my friends brings up their meditation practice, I quickly reply with something along the lines of, “I wish I could do it, but I can’t focus.” I know that meditation isn’t about perfection, but being type A, it’s hard for me to do something if I’m not “perfect” at it. Lately, meditation keeps popping up in my circle, from badass friends who are constantly hustling to my sheroes like Robin Roberts meditating every day at three-something in the morning, according to an interview with The Cut.
I figured if Robin Roberts can wake up that early every morning and commit to a meditation practice, I, too, could wake up (a little later) and get my meditation on. I’m still a meditation rookie, but one thing I found helpful when my mind wanders, which is basically every minute, is mental noting. “Mental noting, or labeling, is a mindful awareness technique of noting and naming the thoughts and feelings that come up as you meditate,” Millana Snow, meditation teacher, energy healer, and founder of Wellness Official, told POPSUGAR.
“When your mind starts to go off into tangents, you can use mental noting to bring pause and awareness to those thoughts so that you can start to unidentify with them and become the observer of those thoughts and feelings.” If you find your mind wondering, make note of it — “I’m thinking about the big pitch I have on Friday” — then return to the present.
Every time my mind drifts and I find myself wondering what I’m going to eat later that day, thinking about how many clients I have to train, planning a trip to Colombia, combing my never-ending to-do list, and every other random thought that comes up, I revert back to mental noting. Some days, I have to do it a lot, but other days, I only have to do it once or twice during my practice.
If you’re already going, “Yeah, I still won’t be able to do this,” I promise you, you will. When I catch myself thinking about everything else instead of being in the present, I practice mental noting by focusing on my breath while thinking, “Breathing in, breathing out.” When Millana finds her mind drifting, she said she reminds herself to “‘come back to my breath’ or come back to noting what the moment contains: the sounds in the room, the smells, and the way my body feels. I find this helps me go deeper into awareness,” she explained.
The key word in “practice mental noting” is practice. “We must allow ourselves to be the observer of our thoughts, and to watch thoughts pass by like you would clouds in the sky,” Millana said. She also recommends noting and naming your thoughts “instead of identifying with them and making them distractions.” The key is to become more present and separate the thought from yourself.
If you gave up on your meditation practice before starting because you thought focus would be an issue, try introducing mental noting into your practice.
If you missed a few hours of sleep, you’re definitely going to feel tired the next day. And with that fatigue will likely come all sorts of ideas for staying awake, such as guzzling caffeine, taking a long nap, or going to bed super early. But even though it all seems like a good idea when you’re tired, these are things you should avoid at all costs.
The only real cure for fatigue is getting a good night’s sleep, every single day. And that means creating a healthy sleep schedule, one night at a time. “Resetting your sleep schedule or establishing good sleep hygiene is a process and takes more than a few days,” licensed psychologist Nicole Issa, PsyD, tells Bustle.
And yet, the sooner you can start, the better. “It will begin with having a consistent wake up time and sticking to it,” she says. “Your bedtime will gradually shift to an earlier time to allow you to get enough rest.”
Creating a relaxing evening routine can come in handy, too, such as slowing down, putting away your phone, reading a book, and even getting ready for bed beforeyou’re tired. As Dr. Issa says, “That way you can just go to bed when you are ready and not get woken up by washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc.”
These are things you should do for good sleep, as opposed to the things listed below, which experts say you should try to avoid if you’re tired.
1. Drinking Tons Of Energy Drinks
Even though they can give you a quick boost of energy, it’s not a good idea to load up on these drinks as a way to stay awake.
“[They] often have a lot of B vitamins, which can be stimulating, and then cause insomnia, which perpetuates the cycle of being tired and reaching for more energy drinks,” Catherine Darley, ND, from the The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, tells Bustle.
Instead, stick to one caffeinated drink in the morning, so it has plenty of time to wear off before bed, when you can officially catch up on your rest.
2. Taking A Nap
If you can, try to resist the urge to take a nap. Or at least try to time it right.
“Avoid taking a nap longer than 30 minutes to ‘catch up,'” Doug Hale, a sleep expert from Brooklyn Bedding, tells Bustle. “Just as important, don’t take a nap late in the day as that will disrupt your normal sleep cycle, leading to insomnia at night.”
3. Going To Bed Super Early
While it might be tempting to pass out the moment the sun goes down, try to stay awake as long as possible, or until your usual bedtime.
“Going to bed too early […] can result in what is essentially a long nap late in the evening,” Dr. Darley says, “which then causes the inability to sleep through the night.”
Do this, and you’ll likely wake up at 3 a.m., and be just as tired the next day.
4. Staying Inside
When you’re tired, you might want to hide away from the blinding light of the sun. But stepping out can actually be a good thing.
“Get outside in bright sunlight for 20 minutes soon after getting up, then continue with light bursts of 10 minutes every couple hours,” Dr. Darley says. “Full spectrum light naturally increases alertness.” And that can help get you through the day.
5. Doing A Strenuous Workout
“It might seem like a good idea to burn off energy in order to get a restful sleep, but working out later in the day can cause cortisol to spike which can prevent some people from being able to fall asleep,” health coach Rachel MacPherson tells Bustle. Instead, do your workout in the morning. Or skip it entirely until you’ve caught up on sleep.
6. Snacking To Stay Awake
Fatigue can make you feel hungrier than normal, and lead to cravings for simple carbohydrates. And while that’s fine, keep in mind that eating sugary snacks can crash your blood sugar, and make you feel even worse. Instead, “eat a healthy balanced diet so your blood sugar levels remain steady,” Dr. Darley says.
7. Drinking A Night Cap
A night cap may seem like a good idea, if you want to fall asleep faster. But if you want that deep sleep, you may want to stick with water.
“Alcohol interferes with your deep sleep cycles and REM cycles,” Jason Piper, a sleep and nutrition coach, tells Bustle. “These are the restorative phases we go through at night. Alcohol keeps you mainly in a light sleep phase.”
8. Cramming For A Test
If you have a big test tomorrow, and plan to stay up all night studying, it may be smarter to just go to bed. “You may feel like you are making progress, but when you finally go to sleep and it is a short duration, you will miss out on a lot of your REM sleep,” Piper says. “REM sleep is when the brain moves short-term memories into long-term memory, so a lot of what you were studying becomes lost.”
9. Sleeping In
Just like going to bed early, sleeping in always seems like a good idea in the moment. And yet, “it can shift [your] circadian rhythm for the day, making it harder to fall asleep at night,” Piper says.
Basically, sleeping in — even for just one hour past your usual wake time — throws off the timing of the sleep hormone, melatonin. It’s best to stick to your normal sleep and wake times, to help your body get back on track.
10. Eating Right Before Bed
While it’s OK to have a light snack before bed, keep in mind that eating a big meal can make for a rough night.
“Your body needs to digest the food,” Piper says. “So it will raise your internal core [temperature] as it metabolizes the food and also will divert energy away from sleep to digesting the food.”
With all that going on, it’ll be hard for the body to slip into a deeper, more restorative sleep cycle, Piper says, and you’ll feel even more tired come morning.
11. Checking The Clock
If you ever find yourself in bed, tired, and yet unable to fall asleep, do yourself a favor and avoid staring at the clock. Or worse, wondering when (or if) you’ll ever fall asleep.
“Doing this isn’t going to change anything,” Dr. Issa says. “In fact, it will only make you feel more anxious which will increase your physiological arousal and make it harder to fall asleep.”
12. Relaxing With Your Phone
However tempting it may be, don’t lay in bed and scroll through you phone, as the “blue light from it will interfere with your ability to fall asleep,” Dr. Issa says. If you want to fall asleep easily, and wake feeling rested, avoiding electronics before bed will be key.
13. Willing Yourself To Sleep
Have you ever had that moment where, despite how tired you feel, you just can’t fall asleep? When that happens, it’s actually best to get out of bed, instead of lying there wishing for sleep.
“Doing that will probably come with a lot of other thoughts about your lack of sleep,” Dr. Issa says, including anxiety about how tired you’ll feel the next day.
“Instead, get out of bed and take a break,” she says. “Get up and go in a different room until you start to naturally feel tired. Then go back into your bed.”
14. Making Important Decisions
If a big decision can wait, do yourself a favor and wait. “Whether financial, relationship, or anything important, you would be much better off making that decision in the morning when your mind and body are fully rested,” Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck, tells Bustle. When you’re fatigued, you just won’t have the capacity to think clearly.
15. Soaking In A Hot Bath
In order to fall asleep quickly, it may be a good idea to avoid warm showers and baths right before bed, and instead opt for a quick (and cool) rinse.
According to MacPherson, since your core body temperature drops at night in preparation for sleep, taking a hot bath can disrupt that cycle, increase your heart rate, and make it difficult to sleep.
Even though it often seems like a good idea, doing these things when you’re tired tends to be anything but helpful. The best and only way to feel less fatigued is to get a good night’s sleep, which includes sticking to a bedtime routine, and getting the right amount of rest every day.
Astrology can predict a lot about your relationships. Not just who you’re compatible with, but what kind of partner you are, and what your relationship’s strengths and weaknesses will be. And while astrology can give you an idea of what zodiac signs you’re compatible with, it can also serve as a warning sign. Astrology can alert you to the zodiac signs most likely to get taken advantage of in a relationship, for instance.
Some signs, like Gemini and Sagittarius, may constantly crave adventure in relationships, while others, like Libra and Taurus are more traditional romantics. Every zodiac sign is different in a relationship, and it can depend on factors like your ruling planet.
“Neptune [is] the planet of mystery, dissolution, confusion, fantasy, and sacrifice,” astrologer Cindy Mckean of Kansas City Astrology & Tarot LLC, tells Bustle. “Venus, the planet of love, also rules romance.”
Mckean says some of the most romantic signs are Libra, Taurus, and Leo. Libra and Taurus are romantics because they are ruled by Venus, and Leos are just in love with love.
But being too much of a romantic can lead to problems in a relationship. In every healthy relationship, boundaries are needed to prioritize your well-being. When you’re too invested in a relationship, others can take you for granted. These are the two zodiac signs most likely to get taken advantage of in a relationship.
1. Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19)
“Though it seems that the serious-minded, hard-working Capricorn is someone that can’t be taken advantage of, those traits are exactly the reason they can be taken advantage of in relationships,” Mckean says. “Sometimes Capricorn can turn their relationships into a job as they are willing to do favors and tasks for their partner in return for the carrot at the end of the stick. It may take a Capricorn a long time to come to their senses that the carrot isn’t really meant for them.”
Mckean says this effort put into relationships is why it takes a long time for Capricorns to recover from broken hearts, and why they may hold a grudge against that partner for years. Capricorns should remember that relationships are all about give and take. You don’t have to constantly go out of your way to make your partner happy, especially if they wouldn’t do the same for you.
2. Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20)
“Ruled by Neptune, Pisces are a naturally romantic and passive sign,” Mckean says. “As a mutable sign, they are willing to bend over backwards for the one they love and accommodate in any way for their partner’s success and happiness. Unfortunately, this sometimes means they can easily be taken advantage of without seeing it as their planetary ruler tends to fog their perspective.”
Although it’s natural to look back with regret, being romantic shouldn’t be looked at as a negative. Mckean says Pisces are resilient, and will recover from their heartbreak quickly.
If you fall in love easily, all hope is not lost. You may have to be more careful when it comes to recognizing what healthy relationships look like, but you don’t have to give up on love all together. Identifying what you want in a partner and making your happiness a priority can help you find the right relationship.
You’ve been to four psychiatrists and tried over a dozen medication combinations. You still wake up with that dreadful knot in your stomach and wonder if you will ever feel better.
Some people enjoy a straight path to remission. They get diagnosed. They get a prescription. They feel better. Others’ road to recovery isn’t so linear. It’s full of winding bends and dead-ends. Sometimes it’s entirely blocked. By what? Here are a few impediments to treatment to consider if your symptoms aren’t improving.
1. The Wrong Care
Take it from the Goldilocks of mental health. I worked with six physicians and tried 23 medication combinations before I found the right psychiatrist who has kept me (relatively) well for the last 13 years. If you have a complex disorder like I do, you can’t afford to work with the wrong doctor. I would highly recommend that you schedule a consultation with a mood disorders center at a teaching hospital near you. The National Network of Depression Centers lists 22 Centers of Excellence located across the country. Start there.
2. The Wrong Diagnosis
According to the Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin, the average patient with bipolar disorder takes approximately 10 years to receive the proper diagnosis. About 56 percent are first diagnosed incorrectly with major depressive disorder, leading to treatment with antidepressantsalone, which can sometimes trigger mania.
In a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, only 40 percent of participants were receiving appropriate medication. It’s pretty simple: if you’re not diagnosed correctly, you won’t get the proper treatment.
3. Non-adherence to Medication
According to Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and author of An Unquiet Mind, “The major clinical problem in treating bipolar illness is not that we lack effective medications. It is that bipolar patients do not take these medications.” Approximately 40 to 45 percent of bipolar patients do not take their medications as prescribed. I’m guessing the numbers for other mood disorders are about that high. The primary reasons for non-adherence are living alone and substance abuse.
Before you make any major changes in your treatment plan, ask yourself if you are taking your meds as prescribed.
4. Underlying Medical Conditions
The physical and emotional toll of chronic illness can muddy the progress of treatment from a mood disorder. Some conditions like Parkinson’s disease or a stroke alter brain chemistry. Others like arthritis or diabetes impact sleep, appetite, and functionality. Certain conditions like hypothyroidism, low blood sugar, vitamin D deficiency, and dehydration feel like depression. To further complicate matters, some medications to treat chronic conditions interfere with psych meds.
Sometimes you need to work with an internist or primary care physician to address the underlying condition in tandem with a mental health professional.
5. Substance Abuse and Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people who are addicted to drugs are approximately twice as likely to have mood and anxiety disorders and vice versa. About 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression, also have a substance abuse disorder, and about 20 percent of those with a substance abuse problem also have an anxiety or mood disorder.
The depression-addiction link is both strong and detrimental because one condition often complicates and worsens the other. Some drugs and substances interfere with the absorption of psych meds, preventing proper treatment.
6. Lack of Sleep
In a Johns Hopkins survey, 80 percent of people experiencing symptoms of depression also suffered from sleeplessness. The more severe the depression, the more likely the person will have sleep problems. The reverse is also true. Chronic insomnia creates a risk for developing depression and other mood disorders, including anxiety, and interferes with treatment. In persons with bipolar disorder, inadequate sleep can trigger a manic episode and mood cycling.
Sleep is critical to healing. When we rest, the brain forms new pathways that promote emotional resilience.
7. Unresolved Trauma
One theory of depression suggests that any major disruption early in life, like trauma, abuse, or neglect, may contribute to permanent changes in the brain. According to psychiatric geneticist James Potash, M.D., stress can trigger a cascade of steroid hormones that likely alters the hippocampus and leads to depression.
Trauma partly explains why one-third of people with depression don’t respond to antidepressants. In a study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers uncovered three subtypes of depression. Patients with increased functional connectivity between different brain regions who had also experienced childhood trauma were categorized with a subtype of depression that was unresponsive to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Zoloft and Prozac. Sometimes, then, intensive psychotherapy needs to happen alongside medical treatment in order to reach remission.
8. Lack of Support
A review of studies published in General Hospital Psychiatry assessed the link between peer support and depression and found that peer support helped reduce symptoms of depression. In another study published by Preventive Medicine, teens who had social support were significantly less likely to become depressed after experiencing work or financial stress in early adulthood than those without support. Depression was identified among conditions affected by loneliness in a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health. Persons without a support network may not heal as quickly or as completely as those with one.
Mindfulness has become quite the buzzword these days, with impressive studies popping up in the news with regularity.
For example, research from the University of Oxford finds that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is just as effective as antidepressants for preventing a relapse of depression. In MBCT, a person learns to pay closer attention to the present moment and to let go of the negative thoughts and ruminations that can trigger depression. They also explore a greater awareness of their own body, identifying stress and signs of depression before a crisis hits.
Four years ago, I took an eight-week intensive Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at Anne Arundel Community Hospital. The course was approved by and modeled from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s incredibly successful program at the University of Massachusetts. I often refer to the wise chapters of Kabat-Zinn’s book, Full Catastrophe Living (which we used as a text book). Here are a few of the strategies he offers:
Hold Your Feelings with Awareness
One of the key concepts of mindfulness is bringing awareness to whatever you are experiencing — not pushing it away, ignoring it, or trying to replace it with a more positive experience. This is extraordinarily difficult when you are in the midst of deep pain, but it can also cut the edge off of the suffering.
“Strange as it may sound,” explains Kabat-Zinn, “the intentional knowing of your feelings in times of emotional suffering contains in itself the seeds of healing.” This is because the awareness itself is independent of your suffering. It exists outside of your pain.
So just as the weather unfolds within the sky, painful emotions happen against the backdrop of our awareness. This means we are no longer a victim of a storm. We are affected by it, yes, but it no longer happens to us. By relating to our pain consciously, and bringing awareness to our emotions, we are engaging with our feelings instead of being a victim to them and the stories we tell ourselves.
Accept What Is
At the heart of much of our suffering is our desire for things to be different than they are.
“If you are mindful as emotional storms occur,” writes Kabat-Zinn, “perhaps you will see in yourself an unwillingness to accept things as they already are, whether you like them or not.”
You may not be ready to accept things as they are, but knowing that part of your pain stems from the desire for things to be different can help put some space between you and your emotions.
Ride the Wave
One of the most reassuring elements of mindfulness for me is the reminder that nothing is permanent. Even though pain feels as though it is constant or solid at times, it actually ebbs and flows much like the ocean. The intensity fluctuates, comes and goes, and therefore gives us pockets of peace.
“Even these recurring images, thoughts, and feelings have a beginning and an end,” explains Kabat-Zinn, “that they are like waves that rise up in the mind and then subside. You may also notice that they are never quite the same. Each time one comes back, it is slightly different, never exactly the same as any pervious wave.”
Kabat-Zinn compares mindfulness of emotions to that of a loving mother who would be a source of comfort and compassion for her child who was upset. A mother knows that the painful emotions will pass — she is separate to her child’s feelings — so she is that awareness that provides peace and perspective. “Sometimes we need to care for ourselves as if that part of us that is suffering is our own child,” Kabat-Zinn writes. “Why not show compassion, kindness, and sympathy toward our own being, even as we open fully to our pain?”
Separate Yourself from the Pain
People who have suffered years from chronic illness tend to define themselves by their illnesses. Sometimes their identity is wrapped up in their symptoms. Kabat-Zinn reminds us that the painful feelings, sensations, and thoughts are separate to who we are. “Your awarenessof sensations, thoughts, and emotions is different from the sensations, the thoughts, and the emotions themselves,” he writes. “That aspect of your being that is aware is not itself in pain or ruled by these thoughts and feelings at all. It knows them, but it itself is free of them.”
He cautions us about the tendency to define ourselves as a “chronic pain patient.” “Instead,” he says, “remind yourself on a regular basis that you are a whole person who happens to have to face and work with a chronic pain condition as intelligently as possible — for the sake of your quality of life and well-being.”
Uncouple Your Thoughts, Emotions, and Sensations
Just as the sensations, thoughts, and emotions are separate from my identity, they are separate from each other. We tend to lump them all in together: “I feel anxious” or “I am depressed.” However, if we tease them apart, we might realize that a sensation (such as heart palpitations or nausea) we are experiencing is made worse by certain thoughts, and those thoughts feed other emotions.
By holding all three in awareness, we could find that the thoughts are nothing more than untrue narratives that are feeding emotions of fear and panic, and that by associating the thoughts and emotions with the sensation, we are creating more pain for ourselves.
“This phenomenon of uncoupling can give us new degrees of freedom in resting in awareness and holding whatever arises in any or all of these three domains in an entirely different way, and dramatically reduce the suffering experienced,” explains Kabat-Zinn.
By Thomas Oppong
If you can consistently train your brain to adapt to new situations and information — you will get smarter with time.
Work on your personal priorities
In five minutes, you could decide what to do next week. Track what have you learned so far to avoid getting complacent and help learn new things.
Planning in a few fun anchor events gives you something to look forward to. Make a list of things you want to learn in the upcoming days.
Don’t over-plan and under-act though. A decision alone changes nothing. Action is the greatest gift that only you can give to yourself, so get started.
Reading is insanely essential
Opinions vary on what’s the best brain-boosting reading material, with suggestions ranging from developing a daily reading habit to picking up a variety of fiction and nonfiction books.
Charlie Munger once said, “I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you”
Embrace life long learning
Use the Feynman Technique to make sure you understand things. This is perhaps the single most effective studying tool that you can use to focus.
Learning is best when you connect it to things that you’ve already learned. The more you know the more you can connect.
Don’t stop looking for answers. If something doesn’t make sense to you, look for ways to expand your knowledge so that you do understand it.
Subscribe to insightful newsletters
These newsletters share ideas on how to be awesome at life.
It pays to have a knowledge source from where you can learn something new daily. Use Pocket to save insightful pieces you come across for later reading. Before going to sleep at night try to finish those.
Give yourself something to pursue
Do something. Create something of value. Share your works. Start a passion project. You will learn more in the process even if you failure. You will be a better person than you were before you gave it a shot.
No matter what you do: create value.
Every online break doesn’t have to be about checking social feeds. Replace hours of social browsing with something more mentally nourishing activities.
Challenge yourself to do something original.
Start reflecting in writing
Write down what you learn. It doesn’t have to be pretty or long, but taking a few minutes each day to reflect in writing about what you learned is sure to boost your brainpower.
Write a few hundred words a day on things that you learned. Always take notes. Records brilliant thoughts you get through the day for later use. Be willing to try new things — even if they don’t seem immediately useful or productive.
You never know what will be useful ahead of time. You just need to try new things and wait to see how they connect with the rest of your experiences later on.
Share what you learn
One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. If you really want to learn something, find a way to teach it to others.
Share your thoughts with others via a blog, podcast or vlog. Answer a question on Quora. Teach what you know on Udemy.
Explain what you learn. It might help others and it will definitely help you, just for the sake of learning.
“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks,” says Mortimer Adler
When you share, you remember better. It challenges your understanding and forces you to think.
Publish what you learn. It will help you organize your thoughts.
Take time to sit in silence
Take purposeful breaks. Giving yourself space for your brain to process what it’s learned.
A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves creativity and that skipping breaks can lead to stress, exhaustion, and creative block.
Idleness is not a vice, it is indispensable for making those unexpected connections in the brain you crave and necessary to getting creative work done.
Spend some time to think
There is one activity that will have a tremendously beneficial impact on your results: thinking.
Unless you schedule a time to think, to really do nothing else but think, you won’t do it.
Don’t just read for other people’s opinions, read for facts and then think. This requires time and effort. You’ll have to learn how to focus.
That space needs to be free from distractions. Your mind is a novelty-seeking device. It evolved to pay attention to things that are new and interesting.
Evaluate your ideas. Ponder them. Thinking is asking yourself questions about ideas.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, for instance, makes his executives spend 10 percent of their day, or four hours per week, just thinking. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, schedules two hours of uninterrupted thinking time per day.
Increase mental intensity
Developing mental strength is a work in progress. Mental strength requires that you continue building new neural pathways by learning new things.
Mental strength involves more than just willpower; it requires hard work and commitment.
Force yourself to use your brain more.
The more regularly you pick up a new skill, or study a new subject, the stronger your mind becomes. Try to pick up one new thing every week, then continue working on it as you learn new things.
Focus, strategy, logic, and creativity are just a few of the mental muscles you should be exercising more regularly.
Awareness is a powerful tool.
The power of being self-aware is that it helps you become conscious of your own habits and decide if you need to change them.
Self-awareness keeps you in touch with your emotions and the underlying feelings that influence your actions and thoughts.
Self-awareness is a tremendous tool for helping us understand ourselves and be at peace with who we are. It leads to self-confidence by building on the knowledge of who you are.
Create a daily habit of self-reflection.
Observe your mind when you are immersed in emotion.
Compete with yourself
Get one percent better every day. Focus on tiny consistent improvements every day.
Learn to beat your expectations of yourself. You will learn how to handle your limits and challenges in the process.
If everything is too good, you’re probably stuck not being awesome.
Calvin Coolidge says “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”
If you want long-term success, stop avoiding what’s hard.
Before you go…
If you enjoyed this post, you will love Postanly Weekly (my free digest of the best productivity and self-improvement posts). Subscribe and get a free copy of my new eBook, “The Power of One Percent Better: Small Gains, Maximum Results”. Join over 24,000 people who are on a mission to build a better life.
Since the doomed days of Romeo and Juliet, our society has been inundated with books, movies and songs about longing, heartbreak, and lost love. But in this video from School of Life, Alain de Botton explains how romanticizing that kind of narrative may prevent us from seeking out the love we truly deserve.
“This sort of unrequited passion – so often celebrated in literature and society more generally – may sound generous and in that sense loving, but a devotion to an unrequited situation is, in truth, a clever way of ensuring we won’t end up in a relationship at all; that we won’t ever need to suffer the realities of love,” he explains.
Whether you’re pining over someone who broke it off, or can’t stop thinking about a crush who could have been the one, here are three ways to move on from heartbreak:
1. Confront your fears
Longing for someone after an unexpected break-up is natural, but if you still find yourself fixated on an ex-partner months—or even years—later, it often has less to do with missing them and more to do with protecting yourself from being hurt again.
“The fear of love may be motivated by a range of factors: a squeamishness around hope, a self-hatred which makes someone else’s love feel eerie, or a fear of self-revelation which breeds a reluctance to let anyone into the secret parts of ourselves,” de Botton says.
What fears or insecurities cause you to dwell on the past? Have you created a story in your mind about why things didn’t work out? Letting go of them is the first step to moving on.
Rather than focusing on the motives of an unresponsive ex, de Botton recommends looking inwards. What fears or insecurities cause you to dwell on the past? Have you created a story in your mind about why things didn’t work out? Letting go of them is the first step to moving on.
2. Consider what worked
When you can’t stop thinking about someone who left or rejected you, many of us are guilty of only focussing on their flaws, and perhaps denying that we ever truly cared for them in the first place.
Instead, de Botton recommends focussing on what it was that attracted you to that person, before things went south—like their dry sense of humour, their dedication to their career, or a shared love of cheesy movies.
“[We] come to see that the qualities we admired in the ex must necessarily exist in other people who don’t have the set of problems that made the original relationship impossible,” de Botton says.
Ultimately, you’ll realize they weren’t all that special—and you can find someone elsewho will watch your favourite movie with you again and again.
3. Get back out there
It’s certainly easier said than done, but the most effective way to get over someone is often to start dating again.
Doing so not only distracts you from thinking about your ex, but it also helps remind you that there are other people in the world who are interested in getting to know you more deeply.
“True love isn’t to be equated with pining for an absent figure; it means daring to engage with a truly frightening prospect: a person who is available and thinks, despite our strong background suppositions to the contrary, that we’re really rather nice,” de Botton concludes.
Childhood trauma such as neglectful parenting causes physical scarring to the brain and increases the risk of severe depression, a new study has found.
For the first time, scientists have linked changes in the structure of the brain both to traumatic early-years experiences and poor mental health in later life.
Published in the Lancet, the study found a “significant” link between adults who had experienced maltreatment as children with a smaller insular cortex, part of the brain believed to help regulate emotion.
It focused particularly on a phenomenon known as “limbic scarring”, which previous research has hinted is linked to stress.
It involved 110 patients admitted to hospital with major depressive disorder who were then monitored for relapses over the following two years.
They were subjected to a detailed childhood trauma questionnaire, which retrospectively assessed historical incidents of physical abuse, physical neglect, emotional abuse, emotional neglect and sexual abuse.
The patients were then given MRI brain scans, which looked for changes to brain structure.
Dr Nils Opel from the University of Münster, Germany, who led the research, said: “Given the impact of the insular cortex on brain functions such as emotional awareness, it’s possible that the changes we saw make patients less responsive to conventional treatments.
“Future psychiatric research should therefore explore how our findings could be translated into special attention, care and treatment that could improve patient outcomes.”
The findings suggest that the reduction in the area of the insular cortex due to limbic scarring could make a future relapse more likely, and that childhood maltreatment is one of the strongest risk factors for major depression.
All participants in the current study, aged 18 to 60 years, had been admitted to hospital following a diagnosis of major depression and were receiving inpatient treatment.
By JR Thorpe
It was my birthday yesterday (thank you, thank you), and this year marks a decade since my diagnosis with Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD. A lot has changed in the intervening ten years, but realistically, it’s likely that I’ll have MDD for the remainder of my life — and that’s an interesting situation, because research reveals that depression itself doesn’t remain static. As we get older, depressive symptoms can change, both in relation to life events (grief, upheaval, breakups) and natural physiological shifts. However, a lot of the time depression is still depicted as a monolith: a diagnosis with the same symptoms and treatments throughout your life. The truth is a lot more dynamic.
There are various types of depression, and it’s important to note that my diagnosis is distinct from situational depression, which is depression that develops in response to trauma and sad events. MDD sticks around even when there’s nothing apparently triggering it. It’s not more or less serious than other kinds of depression. However, it’s important that anybody with a depression diagnosis — and anyone who may have noted it in their family — knows how age can cause flare-ups and change symptoms. Here are six ways depression can change as you age.
1. Depression Can Change The Way Your Body Ages
In 2018, scientists discovered that depression ages both our bodies and our brains. One study found that having depression prematurely ages your DNA, making it appear older by an average of around eight months, which has a series of knock-on effects on cells and chromosomes. Depression not only changes as we age; we physically change in response to it.
2. It Can Change Your Brain, Too
Another 2018 study of 71,000 people found that if you have depression, your brain ages faster, experiencing cognitive decline, memory loss, and slowdowns in processing information at an earlier age. “Cognitive function may need to be monitored closely in individuals with affective disorders, as these individuals may be at particular risk of greater cognitive decline,” the scientists wrote. Unfortunately he more cognitive decline experienced, the worse depressive symptoms can get.
3. Depressive Symptoms Can Appear For The First Time As You Age
While depression can crop up when we’re young, it can also turn up for the first time past the age of 50. A 2015 study found that depression diagnoses increase from the ages of 65 to 85. Part of this is likely due to the issues of aging in general; the Cleveland Clinic has noted that an increase in health issues, loneliness, and grief as we age can be the trigger for depression and depressive feelings.
It’s not just about old age, though. A study in 2014 found that middle-aged women, between 40 and 59, had the highest proportion of depression diagnoses in the United States. There was a slight dip in diagnoses after the age of 60 before an increase again.
4. Age At Menopause Can Affect Depression, Too
Menopause may feel like a long way off, but studies show it seems to affect depressive symptoms too. A study in 2016 published in JAMA Psychiatry found a link between the age at which people hit menopause and their level of depression symptoms. The later they experienced menopause after the age of 40, the less likely they were to have depression.
The scientists said in a press release that “a potentially protective effect of increasing duration of exposure to endogenous estrogens […] as well as by the duration of the reproductive period” might be responsible for lowering depression risk; in other words, the longer we menstruate throughout our lives, the more we’re protected against hormonal-induced depression when menstruation ends.
5. Your Response To Anti-Depressants Can Change Over Time
Many people with depression will take anti-depressants for a long time, but it’s possible that as we age, our reactions to those medications changes. “It may be that over time certain medications lose their effectiveness or there could be biochemical changes that occur with age,” Dr. Kristina Randle wrote for Psych Central in 2018. “It is important to report your symptoms to your prescribing physician so that he or she may make the necessary adjustments.”
The Mayo Clinic identifies age as a potential reason for antidepressants losing their effectiveness, noting, “As you get older, you may have changes in your brain and thinking (neurological changes) that affect your mood. In addition, the manner in which your body processes medications may be less efficient. You’re also likely to be taking more medications.” Those factors combined can make antidepressants less useful as you age, requiring dosage changes.
6. Your Levels Of This Vitamin May Lead To Greater Depression Risk
For women, a particular consequence of aging can change our depression: folate. “Recent studies suggest that lower concentrations of folate in the blood and nervous system may contribute to depression, mental impairment and dementia,” notes the American Psychological Association. Folate is a B vitamin, and pregnant women are often told to take more folic acid to reduce the risk of miscarriage, but it also has a role in mental health more generally.
Some of us may naturally have lower folate levels, which can lead to problems with antidepressants, depression and anxiety expert Christine Borchard wrote for Everyday Health: up to 40 percent of the U.S. population has a genetic modification that makes folate conversion difficult. However, folate deficiency also increases with age. Studies have repeatedly found that the older you are, the more likely you are to have low folate levels, across numerous populations around the world. As we age, our dipping folate levels may contribute to more depressive symptoms over time.
Depression and age make for a powerful and difficult combination. One thing’s clear: there’s no such thing as a fixed, unchanging depression diagnosis. As we change and age, so does depression.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.
Over the past 2,00 years, the Nguni tribe have lived on the soil of Southern Africa. For the Nguni tribe, non-verbal communication is an integral part of their daily interactions and way of life.
For example, interacting with someone whilst keeping your hands in your pocket, is considered to be impolite. Conversely, presenting a gift to a host who has invited you to visit their home is a polite gesture. 
Within the context of practicing gratitude, we often emphasize the importance of words in expressing gratitude i.e saying thank you, stating what you are grateful for etc. However, non-verbal communication, gestures and actions, also play a crucial role in practicing and expressing gratitude. Here’s how.
Practicing gratitude as a habit
“Your actions speak so loud, that I can’t hear what you say” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the most important ways the Nguni people practice gratitude is through gestures. For example, when receiving a gift, both hands are held out in a cupped position.
According to communications professor at DePauw University, Melanie Finney, this gesture means that “the gift you give me means so much that I must hold it in two hands.” 
This powerful gesture is an example of practicing gratitude, highlighting that it’s not just what you say; it’s what you do that matters more.
Here are some ways this can be applied in everyday life:
- As a Manager or Leader: It’s not just about telling your team how great a leader you are, it’s about showing them by listening to their needs and leading by example.
- As an Entrepreneur: It’s not just about telling your customers how much you care about them, it’s about innovating new ideas to solve their pain points.
- As a Friend: It’s not just about telling your friend that you value the friendship, it’s about consistently showing up to support your friend in times of need.
- As a Partner: It’s not just about telling your partner that you love them, it’s about consistently expressing this love as a habit, regardless of whether you feel like it or not.
- As a Fellow Human Being: It’s not just about expressing sympathy for the poor, needy and those in desperate need for help, it’s about investing time and money into improving the quality of the lives of impoverished people.
There are many more ways gratitude could be practiced in your life. The key lesson here from the Nguni people is that gratitude is a lifestyle of doing and giving not just talking and receiving.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.”
How are you going to practice your gratitude this week?
Mayo Oshin writes at MayoOshin.com, where he shares practical self-improvement ideas and proven science for better health, productivity and creativity. To get practical ideas on how to stop procrastinating and build healthy habits, you can join his free weekly newsletter here.
A version of this article originally appeared at mayooshin.com as “How How to Practice Gratitude Without Saying One Word”
You need people who bring the sunshine into your life instead of rain and darkness.Hold on tight to those that are with you through your transformations and are cheering you on as you spread your wings and soar.
The irony is that narcissists are consistently inconsistent.
If you are in love with someone who sends you constant mixed messages, it can be emotionally damaging to you personally, even causing you to lose your sense of self. The constant sending of mixed messages causes you to lose trust with your own reality and intuition. You start walking on eggshells because you want to prevent the constant shifts from occurring, not completely realizing the power is 100 percent outside of yourself.
Other terms for this type of experience are “ambivalence,” “gas lighting,” and “mind f%$#ery.”
Mixed messages can come in the following forms:
- False promises or statements; examples would be telling you they’ll take you somewhere or buy you something in the future, and then it never happens.
- Doing something mean to you and then acting as if it didn’t just happen and if you try to bring it up, they’ll say something like, “Quit living in the past,” or, “Why are you always so negative?”
- Taking you out on a fabulous date Friday night and then giving you the silent treatment on Saturday.
- Promising you your heart’s desires and then withdrawing the promises, blaming you for the change, making statements such as, “You shouldn’t have done ‘such and such,’” or, “I didn’t realize you were so…” or, “You should have thought of that before you did ‘x, y, or z.’”
- Lying. Emotional abusers seem to be chronic liars. If you try to hold them accountable, they simply deny saying whatever it was you know you heard them say.
- Using the “Bait and Switch” approach. They act like one person and then become another. You keep wondering, “Where did he/she go? I know he/she’s in there somewhere.”
- They don’t “walk the talk.” You hear a lot of words coming out of the abuser’s mouth, but you don’t see any concrete results. It’s always easy to talk about anything; much harder to actually do something meaningful. Narcissists are master false promisers.
- Having double standards. Here’s a perfect example. A narcissist will lecture you about how you’re dressed – even though you look terrific and are in great shape – while he/she’s 50 pounds overweight and does nothing to take care of his/her appearance.
The truth is, emotional abuse is very destructive. It is particularly destructive because it “falls under the radar.” Others don’t see it, or get it, and oftentimes, neither does the victim. If you are subjected to emotional abuse in the form of mixed messages you most likely don’t even realize you are being abused.
If you are the victim of this experience, then you will experience the following symptoms:
- Confusion. You will find yourself continually wondering – What happened? Where is he/she? What went wrong? What did I do? How can I fix this? And you look to the abuser for the answers. Yes, he/she will give you answers, but only ones that hurt and confuse you further.
- Extrinsic Focus. You spend countless hours focusing on the other person – his/her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In the process, you aren’t checking in on your own internal voice, feelings, and intuition. You begin measuring your life based on the other person’s actions. Since the other person has a fragmented personality you will never find the stability you need by focusing in that direction.
- Loss of Self. Because the other person never validates your reality, you stop validating it yourself. You begin to doubt your own experience, and finally lose your sense of reality altogether.
What do you do about it?
If you are subject to this type of problem then you need to do something to rescue yourself. First and foremost is to stop listening to the other person and start listening to your own inner voice. It is important for you to learn how to change the communication patterns you have been conditioned to.
Over time, while in a relationship with an emotional abuser, you have fallen in to a way of relating that is not healthy. In order to survive you have been taught and have taught yourself to turn off your own voice, listening only to the voice of the other person. Make your voice the compass, not the other person’s.
As you start listening to yourself instead of the other person, you will most likely face resistance from him/her. Don’t let this trouble you. Realize this – you haven’t been able to please this person anyway so you might as well stop trying. This is step three – stop walking on eggshells. Simply walk. Just be yourself. Say what you want to say and do what you want to do. As the other person loses control over you, he/she will be angry. He/she will “up the ante” and start doing retaliatory behaviors. After all, you have dared to rebel!
Once you listen to yourself instead of the other person and stop walking on eggshells, realize you have declared war. I know it seems ridiculous that these two simple acts are hostile – because they really aren’t – but the narcissist will feel and believe that these acts are hostile on your behalf. He/she will panic because of his/her loss of control over you. This is detrimental to his/her side of the relationship.
In order to survive this war declaration, you must be at a place where you are no longer dependent on the other person for anything – emotional, financial, or physical. The narcissist will retaliate by taking away anything that you value, especially him/herself. As he/she loses grips on you, he/she will frantically search for a new victim. You will probably experience the silent treatment and “ghosting,” followed by a discard. You will be discarded. Mark my words. The narcissist sees no other alternative.
Yes, it is crazy. Yes, it makes no common sense to the average person who simply wants a loving relationship that is mutually satisfying. Afterall, you have no need to control other people in order to survive. But the best thing you can do for your recovery from this insanity is to rescue yourself. Take care of yourself. Walk away. This is the last step.
Walking away is hard, but what else can you do? Do you want to spend the rest of your life subjected to warfare just because you want to express your autonomy? Is there any value in any relationship where you can’t be who you are?
Even if you don’t physically walk away from the relationship entirely; say you are married to this person or it is a parent and you are still tied to the person structurally, then you are still stuck with a discard situation. Don’t lie to yourself. In this case, you will have to mentally detach from the relationship if you want to be yourself. You will have to live a life without having any needs met by the other person because he/she is incapable of meeting them. especially on your terms.
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When you’re a working mom, a busy college student, or a young professional, mornings can be jam-packed with racing around as you handle endless to-dos. For anyone looking to make over their morning routine, there are a plethora of products geared toward getting bright-eyed if you’re a night owl, healthy breakfasts to give anyone an energizing boost, and recommended morning habits to jump-start your day, but the sheer volume of suggestions can seem overwhelming. Laura Vanderkam — time management expert and author of Off the Clock — is stepping in to share some proven simple ways to turn your hassled mornings into more manageable and productive parts of the week.
1. List out your priorities. Vanderkam suggests making a list of your current top priorities. “Time management is, fundamentally, about spending more time on things that matter to you and less on things that don’t. Getting clear on priorities gives you a framework for deciding what belongs in your schedule and what doesn’t (or should be minimized if it can’t be avoided).” Write down what you want to accomplish with your mornings — whether it’s exercise, spending more time with your kids, or working on a passion project.
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2. Use mornings to pay yourself first. Once you’ve figured out the top priority your morning should advance, focus on it when you’re the freshest. Exercise is often a great way to start the day, since it can give you a natural boost of energy. If family dinners are tough to wrangle, family breakfasts together would be a wonderful time to connect. If you maintain a full-time job while working on a side hustle (like writing a novel, starting a business, or painting), mornings might be a window of time to dedicate energy for it. For college students, Vanderkam shares, “If your classmates sleep in until 10, getting up at 8:30am — not exactly the crack of dawn — can open up what feels like extra time.”
3. Knock out your toughest tasks before the rest. In her book, Vanderkam writes, “Planning your toughest task for when you have the most energy means you can cut that task from two hours to one.” When starting your day’s work — whether you’re a freelancer or full-time employee — figure out which project will take the most discipline, then tackle it early. Reserve routine tasks for later in the day when most people’s energy is lower. “Leaving an important task to a time of day when you’re likely to get distracted means it will take longer,” reminds Vanderkam.
4. Simplify routines. In Off the Clock, Vanderkam suggests a number of ways to free up more time by streamlining common tasks: You might designate a specific spot for car keys in the morning, or you could create a FAQ document to copy and paste when someone wants to “pick your brain.” For mornings specifically, Vanderkam recommends either winnowing down your wardrobe to what works best for you on a daily basis (making it easier to choose your #OOTD) or preselecting your clothes for the next day before you sleep (so you’re ready to dress as soon as you’re up).
5. Cut down on distractions. Our biggest time suck in the morning is digging into emails or social media as part of “getting ready” before heading to the office or plunging into the day’s routine. While it may seem like looking at your phone is productive, Vanderkam says that avoiding being buried in your phone first thing in the morning can free up time to exercise, meditate, and connect with loved ones.
6. Find reflection time. Remembering what you’re grateful for through journaling, meditating, or writing down gratitude lists is a way to make your day feel more spacious and inviting. A busy morning can make a lot of people feel like they have zero time to reflect, but Vanderkam points out that there are often hidden opportunities we can uncover. “Think of the shower as reflective time. You probably find time to shower, so as you’re in there, think about your day, what you like about your life, and what you’re grateful for.”
7. Wake up 10 minutes early. Using your mornings well doesn’t mean you have to get up at 5am. Setting your clock even just 10 minutes before you need to start your day can be an excellent way to squeeze in your priorities or new goals. “Waking up a little bit early means you can use this time for something that’s important to you that life has a way of crowding out,” encourages Vanderkam. “You could write in a journal for five minutes, do some push-ups and sit-ups, and have a great morning routine.”
8. Swap unproductive evening hours for productive morning routines. If you’re genuinely doing your best work at night, then you’re a night owl. But for most people who say they’re “not morning people,” says Vanderkam, what it really means is just that they’re still tired when they wake up. Evaluate how you spend your evenings. If you could cut back on something that’s not a priority to go to bed a bit earlier, you could start the morning more refreshed and ready to make the most of it — or even wake up a little sooner.
9. Design your morning. To make over your mornings, Vanderkam says, “Think about what you could reliably do at least a few times a week, even when things go wrong. You don’t have to move mountains in one shove. You just have to do a little bit at a time and just keep going.” She gives some examples: “If you write 250 words every morning, you could finish a draft of a novel in a year. Lifting weights three mornings a week would make you stronger in six months.” Craft a morning routine that you like rather than trudging through what you dislike (which slows you down).
This article originally appeared on Brit + Co.
Sometimes it feels impossible to get away from it all. That’s where your introvert bedroom sanctuary comes in. The post How to Create Your Own Introvert Bedroom Sanctuary appeared first on Introvert, Dear.
I can be a pretty bad procrastinator.
In school, I put off writing essays until the day before they were due. At home, the dishes pile up and out of the sink more often than I’d like. Putting things off can be a real problem in my life and I know I’m not alone.
I’ve talked to other procrastinators of all types—from slacker students to fearful entrepreneurs to creatives who religiously refuse to start a project until there’s a deadline staring them in the face. And the one thing I’ve learned is that procrastinators never learn.
For entrepreneurs, especially, procrastination can become a regular hurdle, making it necessary to take certain steps to ensure it doesn’t stand in the way of you getting your idea off the ground.
But the first step on the road to recovery is to understand why it is we put things off.
Why do we procrastinate?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily because we’re lazy.
According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, there are three main breeds among procrastinators:
- The Thrill Seeker procrastinates to experience the last minute rush, like they’ve just defused a bomb with only seconds to spare.
- The Avoider procrastinates because they’re afraid of being judged, of the consequences of failure or, believe it or not, success.
- The Indecisive procrastinates as a byproduct of perfectionism, feeling it necessary to seize every second they have to do the best job they can.
Most of us probably fall into certain categories for different things.
And every now and then we resolve to get organized, to do things in advance, but it’s only a matter of time until we relapse. The only way to beat procrastination is to be conscious of it in our lives and to develop ways to work around it.
So, if you have the tendency to put things off and are looking for a way to change, here are some proven strategies you can adopt.
Create last-minute panic in the present
One of the reasons we procrastinate is to experience the thrill of racing against the clock. Somehow we’ve conditioned ourselves to think we do our best work during those final moments leading up to a deadline.
These “near deadline experiences” force us to make decisions that we would otherwise put off and to work at peak efficiency. Because, well, we have no other choice.
One way to induce last minute panic months in advance is to set due dates well before your actual deadline to deceive yourself into completing tasks earlier.
If false deadlines don’t work, break your workload down into smaller tasks and set a timer as you attempt to finish each one. Racing against the clock is a good way to create pressure when there is none.
1-Click Timer is a simple chrome extension that pits you against a timer to get things done.
Any timer will work, but the point here is to help yourself stay focused on the task at hand and simulate the pressure of cutting it close. If something “should only take an hour”, this is one way to ensure it does.
Write down your plans (preferably in pencil)
Many procrastinators put things off because they like to keep their options open and let life (or a lack of time) force them into making decisions and finishing what they started.
For procrastinators, calendars are poorly maintained and To Do lists become To-Morrow lists. It’s important for chronic procrastinators to organize themselves in a way that accommodates flexibility, improvisation and the inevitable chaos of life.
This is why I recommend Trello— it gives you full control over the way you manage tasks, your team, a project or an entire business venture. And it’s free.
Try this Trello board template, based on the system I currently use to keep my life together, if you need a place to start.
Simply create your board, add tasks as cards to different lists, assign due dates if necessary, or even make your cards slowly fade into nothingness if you ignore a task for too long. Trello even comes with a calendar view to give you an outline of what’s ahead that lets you move due dates around with a simple drag-and-drop.
Tip: Start every item on your To Do list with a verb to paint a specific picture of each task. We do actions (“Write product description”), not nouns (“Product description”).
Choose productive ways to procrastinate
Procrastinators typically favor instant gratification. Everything else is a problem for another day.
Naturally, one way to battle procrastination—especially when it comes to mundane tasks like scheduling social media posts—is to find a way to pair what you need to do with something you’d rather be doing.
Listen to music or a podcast, watch your favorite movie on Netflix, do something else that doesn’t require your full attention. Find some way to whistle while you work.
Another strategy is to practice structured procrastination: embracing procrastination and opting for a productive alternative to whatever it is you’re putting off.
Just because it’s not “what you’re supposed to be doing”, doesn’t mean it’s not productive—like reading a blog post to learn a new skill instead of doing the dishes, or building your ecommerce business instead of finishing that report for your boss. But, whenever possible, limit yourself to tasks that contribute to the same goal as the thing you’re putting off.
Instead of staring at a blank screen trying to come up with a name or tagline for your business idea, why not use that time to do something else that’ll bring you closer to your goal? Like shopping around for the perfect theme for your online store?
Ride out the momentum of “starting”
“Starting” is oftentimes a procrastinator’s kryptonite: The mere thought of it makes us weak. But once we climb that mountain and get in our zone, stopping is just as hard as starting.
Everyone’s got a different ritual for getting into their zone, whether it means relocating to a specific spot in your house or waking up at 5 am to get some work done.
A useful trick that works for a lot of people (including myself) is to listen to the same song on repeat to encourage a state of intense focus. Just try to keep it light on the lyrics.
Ryan Holiday, along with other successful entrepreneurs, is an advocate of this strategy:
Melodic music, played on repeat, puts you in a heightened emotional state—while simultaneously dulling your awareness to most of your surroundings.
Adopt a ship-it mentality
Procrastination is often attributed to laziness. But even obsessive workaholics put things off too, though for a different reason.
Many an entrepreneur has been paralyzed by the pursuit of “perfect”. And it can be a real time-waster trying to get everything exactly right.
Get used to going live without all the kinks worked out, especially if it’s something you can easily revisit later after soliciting feedback or leveraging data to make more informed improvements.
Prioritize tasks and make a plan of attack based on what should get out the door ASAP, what you have to wait on, and what you need to do before you can move on.
Sending emails is an example of a low effort, often essential task that’s easy to put off. Waiting on a reply has the potential to become a bottleneck. Keep these things in mind and fight through the desire to put it off.
Conquer procrastination (now rather than later)
Procrastinators are typically flexible people, good under pressure, and know how to improvise in the face of chaos. After all, they put themselves in tight situations on a daily basis.
But there’s an ugly side to it too. The quality of your work might suffer and the compounding effect of unnecessary stress can negatively impact your health. So it’s an important problem to address while you can.
The desire to put things off will inevitably rear its ugly head throughout your life. But the next time it does, stare it down and tell it, “Not today”. Because the best way to invest in your future is always in the present.
If you’ve got other tips for kicking procrastination to the curb, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Aries Give yourself a well-needed day off from work. A day where you don’t answer any emails or stress about your career. Taurus Give yourself an outdoor day. 293 more words
It doesn’t matter how many hours you spent working because you never feel comfortable taking a break. It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve been pushing yourself, because you still feel like you haven’t been doing enough.
By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor Last updated: 10 Apr 2019
~ 3 MIN READ
Recovering from depression and anxiety call for the same kind of shrewdness and amount of perspiration as does running a 4,000-person company. I say that having never done the latter. But hear out my logic: great leaders must master impeccable governing skills, develop the discipline of a triathlete, and build enough stamina to manage multiple personalities. And so does anyone wanting to get outside of her head and live a little.
So I think it’s fitting to translate the insight of a book about business success, The Wisdom of Failure: How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying the Price by Laurence Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, to victory over a mood disorder, or even mild but annoying anxiety and depression.
Weinzimmer and McConoughey describe their “taxonomy of leadership mistakes,” or nine common ways an executive falls flat on his face and is made fun of by his peers. The business world is replete with calculated risks. It’s a chess game, and a few too many wrong moves will have you packing up your stuff from the corner office.
As I read through them, I kept thinking about my main job — managing my depression as best I can — and the pitfalls that I so often run into. Many are the same listed in this book. Here are six mistakes business leaders make that are appropriate for our purposes:
Mistake one: Trying to be all things to all people.
The “just say no” problem that I have all the time. If you think of requests from friends, families, bosses, co-workers, and golden retrievers as customers asking you for all kinds of products that you can’t simultaneously produce, then you see the logic in your having to draw the line at some point. You must hang on to your resources to stay well.
Mistake two: Roaming outside the box.
Clarification: thinking outside the box is good. Hanging out there, strolling around in pursuit of some meaning that you keep finding in everything that passes by — that’s dangerous. When it comes to recovery, this is very important to remember. I like to try new things: yoga, new fish oil supplements, a new light lamp, different support groups.
What gets me in trouble is when I start to think that I don’t have bipolar disorder and can go off all meds, healing myself through meditation alone. I tried that once and landed in the hospital twice. Now I double check to make sure the box is still in my peripheral vision.
Mistake three: Efficiencies before effectiveness.
This has to do with seeing the forest behind the trees, and subscribing to a policy of making decisions based on the view of the forest, not the trees that are blocking everything from your sight. The authors cite the example of Circuit City’s CEO who cut 3,400 sales people to decrease costs despite the fact that their research said that customers want knowledgeable sales people to help them make decisions when buying electronics. His approach was efficient, but not all that effective.
When you are desperate to feel better, it’s so easy to reach for the Band-Aid — booze, cigarettes, toxic relationships — that might do an efficient job of killing the pain. Effective in the longterm? Not so much.
Mistake four: Dysfunctional harmony.
Like me! Like me! Please like me! Dysfunctional harmony involves abandoning your needs to please others, which jeopardizes your recovery efforts.
“Being an effective leader [or person in charge of one’s health] means that sometimes you will not make the most popular decisions,” the authors explain. “By doing what is necessary, you will sometimes make some people angry. That’s okay. It’s part of the job. If you are in a leadership role and you try to be liked by everyone all of the time, you will inevitably create drama and undercut your own authority and effectiveness.”
So think of yourself as the CEO of you and start making some authoritative decisions that are in the best interest of You, Inc.
Mistake five: Hoarding
I’m not talking about your sister’s stash of peanuts and Q-Tips. This is about hoarding responsibility. For those of us trying like hell to live a good and happy life, this means giving over the reins now and then to other people, persons, and things that can help us: doctors, husbands, sisters, even pets. It means relying on the people in your life who say they love you and letting them do the small things so that you can try your best to be the best boss of yourself again.
Mistake six: Disengagement
Burnout. It happens in all recovery. I have yet to meet someone who can continue a regiment of daily meditation, boot camp, and spinach and cucumber smoothies for more than three months without calling uncle and reaching for the pepperoni pizza. That’s why it is so critical to pace yourself in your recovery. What’s a realistic number of times to exercise during the week? Are you really going to do that at 4:30 am? Why not allow yourself one day of hotdogs and ice-cream in order to not throw out the whole healthy living initiative at once?
Imagine yourself a great leader of your mind, body, and spirit — managing a staff of personalities inside yourself that need direction. Take it from these two corporate leaders, and don’t make the same mistakes.
It’s getting to that time of year where all we can think about is going on holiday. Whether it’s solo travel or a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we’re desperate to jump on a plane and experience what the world has to offer.
The list was compiled by analysing the destinations which are most frequently added to their millennial users bucket lists. The data showed millennial travellers are apparently seeking “memorable and original moments,” as well as “activities that focus on sustainable and personalised local experiences”.
With that in mind, here are the 30 most popular destinations to add to your millennial bucket list for 2019:
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
- Cinque Terre, Italy
- Utah, USA
- Luberon, France
- Puglia, Italy
- Riga, Latvia
- Bagan, Myanmar
- Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, USA
- Seville, Spain
- Petra, Jordan
- San Diego, California, USA
- Hokkaido, Japan
- Cusco, Peru
- White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Occitanie, France
- Cluj-Napoca, Romania
- Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
- Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
- Sri Lanka
- Merida, Yucatán
- Saint Barthélemy, French West Indies
- Guilin, China
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
- Franschhoek, South Africa
- Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada
- Palawan, Philippines
- Zanzibar, Tanzania
It’s safe to say there are a lot of places we’d like to visit on that least. From the South African wine regions to the Patagonian mountain range, via the beaches of Puglia and Lake Bled in Ljubljana. Anyone else fancy taking an around the world trip?
If you ask someone in their 20s what matters most to them in life, they will usually say, “My relationship and my career.” Relationships and careers are the stabilizers in today’s world, bringing security, contentment, and purpose in life. Yet we don’t seem to be very good at the relationship part. Many of us are isolated, lonely, dissatisfied with our partners, and simply struggling to nurture and sustain healthy long-term relationships.
Is this reflective of our disposable and mobile culture? Whether we are talking about containers, appliances, or people, we now live in a world where we throw things away so easily. The environmental problems caused by plastic bottles and bags are a symptom. Similarly, when it comes to relationships, what do we do? If there are problems, end it; if there is hardship, look for someone better. We are becoming a culture of quitters.
But the tide is turning: Plastic bags and bottles are banned in many places, and we want sturdier appliances that last instead of cheap ones that fall apart and end up in a landfill. Is our attitude toward relationships also changing? Are we valuing longevity and commitment over a throwaway mentality?
To sustain “long term,” we need emotional intelligence and maturity in relationships, and that requires some basic inner practices. Many of the skills we need actually stem from our own self-awareness practices, such as that of mindfulness and meditation. When we have a better understanding of our own inner emotions, we’re able to respond from a place of generosity.
Based on key self-awareness principles, here are a few inner practices to consider for creating a relationship that lasts:
1. Let harmony be a priority.
Put harmony before being right. Does it really matter if your partner is wrong? Will you ruin the day’s peace by having an argument that could have been avoided by simply saying “OK, honey”?
Ask yourself: Why is it important for me to be right?
2. Listen and pause.
With inner calm and a relaxed mind, you’ll be better able to pause and listen to the other person’s point of view. Ask yourself: What are they feeling and why? Pause often in a conversation and try to understand. Most importantly, what is being communicated behind the words?
3. When there’s tension, love harder.
When there’s tension, what can you do to make the relationship stronger instead of putting it under more stress? Tension is not always a bad thing. It is like a warning bell telling you that something needs to change. Rather than expecting others to change, try to see what you can do.
What happens when you have had a bad day at work and you come home to a partner who has also had a tough day? Are you kind to one another? More often than not you have an argument simply because both of you are tired and irritated. If kids are also in the equation, it can be even more hectic. Dinnertime can be the cause of indigestion! So be kind. And remember, your attitudes and thoughts are even more important than the words you say.
4. Speak sweetly.
When the inner state is calm, speech will also be calm. Cultivate the way you speak so that your voice flows like nectar, in a soothing way without harshness or an edge. People will enjoy listening to you when you speak sweetly.
5. Make it a practice to think through the ways you’ve messed up.
At bedtime, take a minute to close your eyes and feel sorry for anything you have done to hurt others, even unknowingly. There is no need to feel guilty; just promise yourself you will not do it again. You will then sleep with a clearer, lighter conscience.
All of us want healthy, happy, fulfilling relationships—we just need the skills to let them happen. Life is not about running away from problems but facing them head-on with a cheerful and peaceful attitude. Much of the work of creating a long-lasting relationship actually starts with doing the inner work first.
In news that surprises no one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a third of us don’t get enough sleep. It’s easy to see why: We work too much, stress too much, and the final season of Game of Thrones has us all on edge (bend the knee!). If you’re having to endure too many sleepless nights, keep reading for the 11 best dog breeds for people who don’t get deep sleep.
I never would have thought that a dog could help you sleep better, considering my own pup’s gas issue that can wake me up from the most peaceful slumber. They’re bed hogs, they bark at every noise (or, you know, nothing at all), and at 5 a.m., they are wide awake and ready to play with their favorite squeaky toy.
It might not be that simple, though. One study published in Anthrozoös found that dogs make better cuddle buddies, compared to cats and even humans. Further research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings said that 41% of pet owners polled find that their furry friend doesn’t hurt their sleep, and even sometimes benefits it.
All of this is to say that if you’re struggling with a lack of deep sleep, a pupper might be the perfect next step. Here are 11 breeds to consider.
1. Bernese Mountain Dog
The American Kennel Club lists this as one of the calmest dog breeds. They’re also large and incredibly floofy, leading me to believe they make ideal cuddle buddies. Originally bred to drive dairy cattle (moo) and be loyal companions to their farmer friends, they’re gentle and easygoing.
Boxers are that kind of dog that forget how enormous they are. Although they do indeed have energy and love to be silly and playful, Rover says they also want to be close to their owners 24/7. They’re true guardians, grow very close to their family, and want nothing more than to be your little spoon.
Newfoundlands might be the perfect dog to help you get your beauty sleep. Dogtimenotes that not only are they generally quiet doggos, but they’re also known for their sweet disposition. Look at that face and tell me you wouldn’t love to snuggle with that fluffball at night. Go on.
4. Great Dane
Yes, they grow to be the size of small horses, but according to Bark Post, great danes are also some of the most affectionate dogs. They’re excellent companions, full of unconditional love, and will be perfectly content having Netflix marathons with you at night.
5. Golden Retriever
Can we please talk about how perfect golden retrievers are in every single way? This might be an especially perfect breed for you if it’s anxiety keeping you up at night, according to K9 of Mine. Plus, as the United Kennel Club says, they’re friendly, calm, they get along with most people and dogs, and they’re eager to learn — meaning they’re typically fairly easy to train.
6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
These puppers are the best of both worlds. They have just enough energy to go for a walk or play at the park, but as Rover says, they’re also very calm and simply love to be your companion. They’re outgoing and even pretty chill around strangers, so just don’t expect them to be your guard dog.
Dogtime describes this breed as “barkless.” They’re typically friendly, straightforward to train, and can adapt to almost any environment. If sleeping problems are bugging you and you want a companion to help you relax at night, a basenji might be a great fit.
Imagine waking up to that beautiful face every morning. K9 of Mine reminds us that they do have a good deal of energy, but they’re also affectionate, devoted, friendly, smart, easy to train, and therapeutic. A corgi friend will be certain you get the sleep you need.
If you don’t mind having zero personal space, a collie is perfect for you. Bark Postsays this breed is all about giving you affection and unconditional love. They might be a bit of a blanket hog, but really, collies just want to give you all the snuggles at night.
You’ve never met a bigger pile of love than the bulldog. American Kennel Club points out how calm and easygoing they are, and they tend to form strong bonds with kids, too. Clearly, a bulldog would make your nights so much more restful.
11. Shih Tzu
iHeartDogs says that shih tzus love to sleep, so maybe some of that will rub off on you. To make things even better, they’re hypoallergenic and quite the smarty-pants.
Meditation has been shown to have numerous benefits to our mind and body such as stress and anxiety management, emotional wellbeing, improved focus and better sleep. Many successful people cite meditation as a valuable tool. For years I’ve recommended it to my clients, and yet, I struggled to make it part of my own routine.
There was always some excuse: an unpredictable schedule, events, deadlines, lack of time. Probably the sneakiest excuse for me of all was that I did yoga so did I really need to meditate on top of that?
I’d interview people and hear them talk about their meditation routine and think, “That sounds nice, but I could never do that. I’m too busy—and besides, I do yoga.”
My studio was like my second home. Aside from being a place where I’d made friends and even business contacts, it had given me a safe place to go work things out in my head. Yoga had seen me through break-ups, career shifts and even my father’s battle with cancer.
Then about a month after my dad died, the studio announced they were closing. This sounds like a total First World Problem—and it is—so I tried to stay positive, calling it a challenge to become more adaptable. Still, as a healthcare professional, I know taking care of myself helps me better care for my clients, so I was anxious to see how this shake-up to my self-care routine might impact my business.
In the midst of all this, I was writing a book, pulling late nights and early mornings. I found myself trying to multitask rest time with meditation time. I often fell asleep while trying to focus on my breath. Unfortunately, a fitful catnap did not have those same mental benefits. The combination of grief, poor sleep, and the loss of that baked-in mindfulness made me feel like my brain was short-circuiting.
You’re probably thinking, “This is New York—why didn’t you just find a new studio?” I was out there trying different places, but building a new routine takes time.
Which brings me back to meditation.
This winter, a friend of mine who was going through a different brand of tough stuff shared that getting back into meditation was helping him. After months of trying to keep my struggle to myself, I opened up about it. He suggested we do regular meditation check-ins to keep each other accountable. I’d never considered this approach but was willing to try.
It took about a week for it to feel like a daily thing, but I quickly noticed the benefits. I became more aware of when my mind started to wander, making it easier to refocus or redirect so I could stay on track with projects. If a situation stressed me out I was better able to identify exactly what was gnawing at me and respond calmly and thoughtfully. I found it easier to prioritize—my daily to-do list got smaller and I felt less pressured to respond right away to every single email. I also did a lot less online shopping.
Perhaps the biggest benefit I noticed, though, was that when I got bad news or found myself awake at night with my mind on an anxiety loop, rather than let it hijack my brain, I focused on steps I could take to deal with the situation.
-I Started Small
I started with three and then five minutes. Soon 10 or 15 felt doable. On Valentine’s Day I even went to a 30-minute self-love meditation that flew by.
-I Made It Convenient
You don’t have to use an app, but I found the support of a tech tool (I chose Headspace) extremely helpful in staying consistent and tracking my progress to help motivate me. I set reminder alerts for times of day I would be likely to be in a place where I could sit quietly.
-I Found A Time That Worked
I tried out different times of day to see what felt doable. It turns out I’m still not a morning meditation person, but an afternoon reset or end-of-day wind-down works great.
-I Added An Accountability Component
This was huge for me. I’d often thought of meditation as a solitary practice, but checking in with someone every day actually helped me stick to it. Just be careful if you get competitive—it should feel like a supporting, encouraging relationship.
While I’m now meditating daily, I have to admit I’m still on the journey, learning as I go. Like so many things, I’ve found, it really is about learning to be where you are and be open to making changes one small step at a time.
To learn more about how to streamline your healthy living routine and enjoy a more balanced relationship with food and exercise, visit JessicaCordingNutrition.com.
It’s not easy to find your “why.” Thankfully, there are strategies to help you find your purpose for a more fulfilling and happy life. Alexis Walker stops by with some creative tips.
If you’re someone who knows the value of a good apology–not just for mending fences but also for strengthening relationships in every area of life–you’re way ahead of most people.
But if you apologize constantly for every little thing–whether or not it’s warranted–listen up. You may be standing in the way of your own success.
The habit of injecting the word “sorry” into every other sentence you utter might seem harmless on the surface. But it can undermine your authority and your confidence, portray you as weak and indecisive, and even damage your credibility.
Worst of all, over-apologizing can desensitize your listeners when you want to deliver a sincere and necessary apology. The more you say you’re sorry, the less power it has. Remember the boy who cried wolf? If everything rises to the need for an apology, then nothing does.
RECOGNIZING THE PROBLEM
Do these casual (and unnecessary) apologies sound familiar?
- “Sorry, can you repeat that?”
- “I’m sorry, but I disagree.”
- “I have no available appointments this week. Sorry about that.”
- “I’m sorry, but I have to let you go.”
Though often attributed to women, apologizing isn’t just a female problem. Psychologists tell us that people who compulsively apologize for small infractions may be manifesting anything from a nervous tic to a social disorder. Frequent apologizers may be insecure, introverted, or just overly self-conscious. They may have been raised in strict families or put a high value on getting along with everyone. Sometimes the habit is an unconscious reaction to stress or anxiety.
What makes some of us fall into this counterproductive habit? It might be performance anxiety, such as our first day on a new job, or when we lack confidence in our ability to run with the “big dogs.” It’s almost as if we’re apologizing for taking up space, which is no way to make a good impression on a job or with a client.
More often, though, over-apologizing is an unconscious habit that’s annoying at best, and at worst, sends one or more unwanted messages that can really work against us:
- I’m not sincere.
- I’m afraid of you.
- I don’t trust you to give me what I want if I’m not super nice.
- I don’t think I’m good enough to talk to you, ask for anything, or even be here.
Ask yourself you’ve ever said you were sorry for any of the following:
- Saying no
- Asking for a raise you deserve
- Getting angry about an injustice
- Having an opinion
- Feeling an emotion
- Throwing up
- Being injured
- Tending to your own needs
Did you answer yes to four or more of the above? Read on.
CONSEQUENCE OF TOO MUCH “SORRY”
If we don’t need to apologize for having an opinion, needing help, or just being human, then what are we trying to accomplish through this behavior?
Sometimes we apologize to deflect, in advance, a negative reaction to what we’re saying. It’s as if we’re trying to smooth ruffled feathers before the ruffling begins.
It’s true that an apology, especially a sincere and necessary one, can actually take the heat off. The over-apology habit may begin innocently when we spontaneously apologize for a real offense. Our opponent softens or even backs down, saying, “Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing.” BAM! A magic bullet, we conclude. But then, as the quick and insincere apology becomes our weaponry of choice, we become almost addicted to it. Serving as both sword and shield, the frequent apology appears to disarm our opponent while protecting us from further attack.
So how do you break the habit?
INSTEAD OF SAYING, I”M SORRY”
In all your communications, but especially on the job, be brief, specific, direct, and unapologetic. Simply state the problem and how you’ll fix it. And then shut up.
If you’re uncomfortable delegating scut work, try this: “We’re in a crunch, and all these files need to be cataloged by end of day. Do you have what you need to get started?”
If you’re constantly apologizing for what you can’t control, try this: “I know I’ve had to reschedule this meeting several times. Thank you for understanding.”
If someone mistreats you and you start to get emotional, try this: “Hey, that hurt,” or “That isn’t helpful.” You can even say, “I need a few minutes to collect myself,” and then leave the room.
Pro tip: You can leave any room under these circumstances. Even if you’ve just been fired. No apology necessary.
If something goes wrong on your watch, try this: “The project took longer than I expected. I’ll have it for you first thing tomorrow.” Then stop.
Helpful hint: If you missed a deadline because of your own poor time management, then you should apologize. But don’t offer an apology on behalf of a team member or a difficult client.
CASE STUDY: HOW TO SPOT WHEN YOU DO NEED TO APOLOGIZE
A guy I’ll call Roy worked in the accounting department of my organization. Roy seemed to enjoy jerking my chain by routinely withholding information and taking forever to provide numbers I needed to do my job.
The showdown came one day when I needed some of Roy’s data to complete a report that was due on my CEO’s desk the next day. Roy informed me I’d have to wait a week. I’d had enough. Through clenched teeth, I said, “I’d hate to have to tell the CEO that his proposal got stalled on your desk.” The next morning I still had no report from Roy. Instead I had a note from human resources.
Apparently, in HR speak, my remark amounted to a threat toward a subordinate, a huge workplace blunder. Implying Roy’s job might be in jeopardy if he didn’t cooperate was, well, harassment. The HR director strongly suggested an apology to Roy would help me avoid any “unintended consequences.”
Deeply humbled, I swallowed my pride and went to Roy’s cubicle. I apologized for misusing my position to pressure him, and I showed appreciation for the thankless job he did every day. “I know you have a lot of conflicting priorities, and I was just trying to muscle my way to the top of the pile,” I said. “I’m sorry I did that. It won’t happen again.”
I had Roy’s report that afternoon, and ever afterward he was pleasant and cooperative. That’s one of the magical things that can happen when you apologize appropriately. I call it the paradoxical superpower.
TRANSFORMING EMPATHY INTO STRENGTH
Before we toss the baby out with the bathwater, it’s important to recognize several positive character traits behind the habit of over-apologizing. For instance, it may arise in someone with strong empathy for others. Empathy–the ability to consider another’s point of view and understand the feelings she may be having–is rapidly becoming a critical soft skill. Someone who knows when and how to apologize appropriately has a huge advantage in the empathy column. A study by researchers at Harvard and Wharton business schools showed that certain apologies can even increase trust.
SO WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THE OVER-APOLOGIZER WHO WANTS TO REFORM?
First, take comfort in the fact that you’re probably a good, considerate person who wants everyone to get along. You’re also likely to score highly on the empathy scale, a huge asset in business and life. What you don’t want is to appear to be afraid of the space you occupy, to be someone who lacks the courage of her convictions, or who doesn’t feel entitled to speak her mind.
Like any other bad habit, overcoming it takes practice. You’ll try avoiding the words “I’m sorry” for a while, stumble, and get back on track. Try taking a friend or trusted coworker into your confidence about what you’re trying to accomplish, and agree on a high sign she can give you if she hears you apologizing unnecessarily. Then reward yourself for the effort.
And keep at it. What you lose by giving up the emotional currency of frequent apologies, you will gain back in personal confidence and self-esteem. That’s something of real value. Bottom line: Don’t apologize unnecessarily–know how to recognize when a sincere apology is necessary.
We may think of depression as a recurring condition with a gloomy prognosis, but findings from one study indicate that nearly 10% of adults in the United States with major depression were thriving ten years later. The findings, which appear in Clinical Psychological Science, suggest that some people with depression experience more than a reduction in depressive symptoms over time – they can achieve optimal psychological well-being.
Writing for The Conversation, lead investigator Jonathan Rottenberg, a researcher at the University of South Florida, discusses how clinical scientists often neglect the potential for positive outcomes among individuals with depression.
“Depression can be a lifelong problem. Yet as we dug deeper into the epidemiological findings, we also saw signs of better outcomes – an aspect that we found is rarely investigated,” he says.
Although current clinical practice emphasizes symptom reduction and achieving an absence of stress, evidence indicates that patients prioritize other measures of well-being.
“They want to love and be loved, be engaged in the present moment, extract joy and meaning, and do something that matters – something that makes the pain and setbacks of daily life worthwhile,” says Rottenberg.
Rottenberg and his colleagues found that a substantial percentage of those with depression can achieve just that.
Using data from the Midlife Development in the United Stated (MIDUS) study, the researchers examined outcomes in a nationally representative sample of middle-aged adults. The participants completed phone interviews and questionnaires, including a measure of depression and a battery of nine facets of well-being including autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, self-acceptance, life satisfaction, and negative and positive affect.
A total of 239 participants in the sample met the criteria for depression, meaning that they experienced depressed mood most of the day or every day, as well as additional symptoms, for at least 2 weeks out of the previous 12 months. The researchers reviewed data from the initial screening and a follow-up survey completed 10 years later.
At the 10-year follow-up, half of the participants reported experiencing no major symptoms of depression in the past 12 months, and almost 10% of the participants with a history of depression were thriving. To count as thriving, a participant had to show no evidence of depression and score higher than 75% of nondepressed MIDUS participants on the nine factors of psychological well-being.
Higher well-being at beginning of the study predicted thriving 10 years later, but severity of depression did not. Specifically, depressed adults who reported higher well-being at the beginning of the study had a 30% chance of thriving, compared with a 1% chance for participants who had low well-being when they began the study. Depressed participants with higher well-being at the beginning of the study and who were thriving at the end of the study had larger increases in well-being over time than did other depressed participants.
These findings could influence how mental health professionals think about the prognosis associated with depression, as well as how they communicate this prognosis to patients. The study suggests that treatment could focus on strategies for optimizing well-being optimization that go beyond just managing symptoms.
“The task now for researchers is to follow these encouraging signs with systematic data collection on how people thrive after depression,” says Rottenberg.
Rottenberg, J., Devendorf, A. R., Panaite, V., Disabato, D. J., & Kashdan, T. B. (2019). Optimal well-being after major depression. Clinical Psychological Science. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2167702618812708
Brenda knew something was wrong in her marriage to Bill, but she was unable to put her finger on what. She felt like she was abused but he never hit her, so she minimized and even dismissed any warning indicators that something else was off. She was intentionally exploited by her husband; endured regular insults and rejection, alternating with affirmation; and felt manipulated into doing or saying something out of character.
Abuse is not just physical. There are many other forms of abuse, such as sexual, financial, emotional, mental, and verbal. While some of the other forms of abuse are obvious, mental abuse can be difficult to spot and explain. Abuse can happen in a home between spouses, from a parent to a child, in social situations between friends, and even at work from a boss to an employee. The sex of the abuser or the victim is irrelevant. Abusers can be both male and female.
It starts simply with a casual comment about anything: color of the wall, dishes in the sink, or the car needing maintenance. The remark is taken out of context by the abuser. The abuser misperceives their spouse’s remark as disapproval of them in some way. No matter how hard the spouse tries to explain that wasn’t their intention, it doesn’t work. The abuser calls them a liar and is off on a tirade, which ends in the spouse feeling like they are losing their mind.
Here are eight typical mental abuse tactics using Brenda’s experiences with Bill as an example.
- Rage – One minute everything is fine and then out of nowhere, Bill would unleash in a rage. In a fit of intense, furious anger he startled and shocked Brenda into compliance or silence. Brenda would do whatever he demanded just to reduce the intensity of his rage or make it stop. Over time, she would learn his triggers to avoid his rages. He would not take responsibility for his reactions, instead, he blamed her for losing it.
- Gaslighting – Bill would lie about what Brenda did in the past, making her doubt her memory, perception, and even sanity. He claimed and gave evidence of her past wrong behavior further causing doubt. As this continued, she began to question what she said a minute ago. She even thought she was losing her mind. Bill used this to further take advantage of her.
- The Stare – This is an intense stare lasting 1-2 minutes to longer durations with no feeling behind it. At times, it would feel creepy. Bill did this to scare Brenda into submission and frequently mixed it with the silent treatment. Bill would even do this at social gatherings giving her “the look” which meant he was upset about something she said, who she was talking to, how long she was talking, or even her not giving him enough attention.
- Silent Treatment – Bill would punish by ignoring Brenda. Then he let her “off the hook” by demanding an apology even though she wasn’t to blame for whatever upset him. This was done to modify her behavior. Bill also had a history of cutting others out of his life permanently over small things. Brenda learned to fear the silent treatment as a worse experience than a rage.
- Projection – Bill dumped his issues onto Brenda as if she were the one doing it. For instance, he would accuse her of lying when he lied. Or he made her feel guilty for doing something wrong when he did the act. This created confusion for Brenda. She started to feel as though she was the unhealthy extension of everything he didn’t like about himself. She struggled to see where he ended and she began.
- Twisting – When Bill was confronted by Brenda or another person, he would twist it around to blame Brenda for his actions. He would not accept responsibility for his behavior and instead insisted that Brenda apologizes to him. He was relentless in his demands that it was Brenda’s fault. When she resisted or fought back, he would add other abusive behavior such as verbal assaults or threats until she was no longer able to take it and succumbed to his demands.
- Manipulation – A favorite manipulation tactic for Bill was to make Brenda fear the worst, such as abandonment, infidelity, or rejection. Knowing of Brenda’s abandonment as a child, he played on that fear to manipulate her into doing what he wanted. Even in instances where she would normally reply “No,” he used her fears as a control tactic to get her to agree to do something she wouldn’t. It didn’t take long before Brenda could not recognize herself as she allowed him to manipulate her into doing things she never wanted to experience.
- Victim Card – When all else failed, Bill resorted to playing the victim card. He would claim that his feelings were being hurt and it was Brenda’s job to make him feel better. Sometimes, he would bring up things from his past and accuse Brenda of triggering uncomfortable feelings and then demand that she take responsibility. This was designed to gain sympathy and further control her behavior.
Once mental abuse is realized, a decision needs to be made. Are you going to continue in the relationship or leave? Whatever you choose, do it with an awareness of what is happening, the trauma this invokes, and methods to counteract the mental abuse tactics.
You could argue that all dogs are intelligent, in their own special way, thanks to the bond they share with us humans, and their adorable desire to impress us. But experts say some dog breeds are extra smart. Take poodles and golden retrievers, for instance, which are known for having a good rapport with people, without even having to try. And then there are the dogs that have been bred to be highly trainable, and stand out in that way.
It really boils down to how you want to measure intelligence. “Is it a comparison to other dogs, species, aspects, speed, precision, [or] accuracy? Oftentimes what is most important in what we commonly believe is ‘intelligence’ is motivation,” Russell Hartstein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, founder of Fun Paw Care, tells Bustle. Some dogs are motivated by their owner, and can learn to do pretty much anything when encouraged.
But there are other signs of intelligence to look for, including being alert and aware of their surroundings, making eye contact, pausing before acting, and paying attention, small animal veterinarian Laura Seabolt, tells Bustle.
With that in mind, read on below for some of the smartest dog breeds, in no particular order, as well as the unique traits that make them stand out.
“It doesn’t matter what size of poodle it is — standard, toy, klein, miniature, or teacup — they are all hyper-intelligent,” Robert Cabral, dog trainer and member of the Wag!advisory board, tells Bustle. “[Poodles are great] at retrieving and learning new commands in minutes.”
And that stylish haircut? It’s actually a sign of their sporting abilities. “This intelligent dog was originally bred in Germany for bird hunting and water retrieving,” the pet experts at Rover, tell Bustle. Shaving their hair in that “fancy” way actually helped them stay warm yet buoyant, as they dove into lakes to fetch animals. Pretty interesting, right?
2. Border Collies
“Border Collies are a herding breed that is very sensitive to the commands of their owner,” Seabolt says. “Often, owners simply make a sound or use a single word to direct their dog.” And just like that, they know what’s up.
“They are also very intuitive, especially when it comes to working with their herding animals,” she says. Border Collies don’t need much attention or direction from their person, in order to get the job done.
But this dog breed also does well outside of herding situations, such as in obedience and agility classes, where they’re known for being one of the smartest dogs around.
3. Jack Russell Terriers
“The Jack Russell breed are feisty and energetic pups that love to be busy,” Cabral says. “They are surprisingly fast on their feet considering their size, and are super responsive to training and voice commands.” If you meet one, you’ll know that they’ve got a lot going on.
4. Golden Retievers
“This is one of the main breed of dogs that is used as seeing eye dogs,” Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinary advisor for doglab, tells Bustle. And for good reason.
“They have to be a very intelligent breed to be used for this purpose,” she says. “They can lead blind people across busy streets and around town, [and they can be] trained to fetch certain items in a person’s house, open and close doors, and help with everyday tasks.”
While other breeds can be taught these skills as well, it’s a golden retriever’s natural intelligence and desire to please that makes them up for the job.
5. Labrador Retrievers
Labradors are also super smart, just like other retriever breeds. “Labs have been known for their intelligence for many years,” Dr. Ochoa says. “This is a common dog used for hunting, [since] they learn very quickly how to retrieve.”
Of course, they’re still incredibly smart, even when they’re not in the woods. Labs are adored for their obedience, which is yet another way to measure intelligence, as well as how loving they are with family.
6. Australian Shepherds
As Dr. Ochoa says, Australian Shepherds are very smart and energetic dogs. They’re often spotted in agility classes where they listen and respond quickly to commands.
7. Australian Cattle Dogs
“This is one dog breed that is very smart when it comes to herding animals,” Dr. Ocha says, which is where their intelligence truly shines.
“Most of these dogs don’t even have to be taught to herd,” she says, “they are just genetically inclined when there is a group of animals or people to herd them.”
It all goes back to what they were bred for. Some dogs are simply good at certain skills, without needing a human to tell them what to do.
8. Doberman Pinschers
Dobermans tend to make great guard dogs since they are always on alert, Dr. Ochoa says, which is one surefire way to measure intelligence. They also learn quickly, and can be quite impressive when it comes to learning commands.
This breed is active and intelligent, Rover says, as well as companionable and highly trainable. Experts tend to agree they’re one of the smartest of the toy dog breeds out there.
10. German Shepherds
German Shepherds are incredibly loyal dogs. “They are eager to learn and please their owner, and they have a superb ability to control their impulses,” Seabolt says.
That’s why they’re often seen in high-pressure situations, such as working alongside law enforcement. “However, they are also wonderful family pets” Seabolt says, “and very sensitive to the emotions of their human family.”
While this breed may appear to be droopy and lazy, they actually “have a natural capacity to sniff out scents and track them down,” Cabral says, “and they don’t give in until they find what they’re searching for.”
Whether it’s learning commands, bonding with family, or impressing everyone with their natural instincts, experts say these dogs are some of the smartest around.
Some people remember their dreams more than others, as you’ll well know if you have that one friend who wants to tell you about her dreams without realizing that they’re boring to anyone besides herself. (Or, if you are that friend.) But, there are some habits that could make you more likely to dream and more likely to remember your dreams. The thing is, some of the habits that could cause you to rememberdreams more often don’t really promote a good night’s sleep and won’t necessarily cause more dreams.
Basically, there’s a difference between dreaming because you sprayed around some lavender essential oil and chose to go to bed with a book rather than a laptop, and remembering a dream because you ate too much queso dip and aren’t sleeping as well as you could be. So many things you do during the day can affect your sleep (Did you exercise too late? Did you take a nap? Drink too much caffeine?), and in turn, these factors can have an effect on dreaming.
Here are some common habits that can make you more likely to remember your dreams or to actually dream more. Before you eat a giant cheese plate at 11 p.m. to try to have otherworldly dreams, you’ll want to take a few things into account and maybe just try taking a bath instead.
Eating Foods That Upset Your Stomach
One of the foods most commonly thought to cause more dreaming — particularly bad dreams — is cheese. But it seems likely that eating cheese before bed isn’t causing the dreams, but rather causing people or remember their dreams.
According to Psychology Today, a study showed that of people who believe certain foods affect their dreams, many attributed it to dairy or to spicy foods. While the site points out that this could be because of the foods themselves (“due to general effects of food on mood and cognition”, as is the case while awake, too), it could also be that the foods are “influenc[ing] dreams indirectly due to poor metabolism or digestive intolerances.”
Sleep.org similarly explains, “certain foods can upset your body and wake you up throughout the night, helping you remember your vivid dreams more.”
Eating Late At Night
As with eating certain foods, eating late at night can also affect metabolism and the state of one’s stomach, which could cause more waking in the middle of the night.
“Dining on a big meal just before turning in for the night boosts your body’s temperature and metabolism — two consequences that result in more brain activity during the REM stage (a.k.a. when you dream),” Sleep.org explains.
Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
According to Cleveland Clinic, Jessica Vensel-Rundo, MD says drinking alcohol before bed “creates more fragmented sleep.” She explained, “There’s more disruption. Deep sleep decreases during the second half, and REM, or dreaming, sleep increases.” It could also lead to more vivid dreams or nightmares, and an increased risk of sleepwalking or acting out dreams.
That said, having vivid or bad dreams after drinking alcohol isn’t really desirable. In this case, yes, you are dreaming, but not exactly due to sleeping well.
In 2007, Scientific American published an article called “Strange but True: Less Sleep Means More Dreams,” which explains “REM rebound.” This is a phenomenon in which a lack of sleep one night will lead to increased time in REM during the next appropriately lengthy sleep. Neurologist Mark Mahowald explained, “When someone is sleep deprived we see greater sleep intensity, meaning greater brain activity during sleep; dreaming is definitely increased and likely more vivid.”
Doing Things To Help You Sleep Well In General
If rebounding from a bad night of sleep leads to more time in REM and more dreams, then it also makes sense that just sleeping well overall can lead to better sleeps with more time to dream. According to HuffPost, Dr. Shalini Paruthi, the director of the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, said that getting a good night of sleep is “the most important thing” one can do to dream.
As HuffPost explains, achieving this includes all the classics, like sleeping in a dark room with a cool temperature, reading a book, taking a bath, meditating, not exercising too late in the day, and not eating too much too close to bedtime. (This is in contrast to the items about food above. In those cases the food caused remembering the dreams, more than actually contributing to better sleep and more time to dream.)
Maybe recognizing whether you have some of these habits will come in handy, whether you want to stop remembering bad dreams or want to sleep more peacefully.
You might not associate prim and proper behavior with a social activity like smoking weed or consuming cannabis, but the fact of the matter is, the diverse community of pot consumers across America rests on pillars of respect and gratitude. Stoner etiquette is real and having manners isn’t just a remnant of high society. Many who partake tend to abide by established social norms, they just tend to be unwritten or unspoken.
Etiquette can be tricky to navigate. Not everyone abides by the same codes of social behavior, but there are some guidelines that have persisted: placing a napkin over your lap while dining is considered to be a hallmark of “good manners,” while talking with your mouth full is still considered a faux pas, thanks in part to Emily Post. In a day and age where the consumption of cannabis has been legalized or is in the process of legalization in many states, the establishment of “rules” is inevitable. The social stigma surrounding the discussion of cannabis has slowly evaporated: celebrity stoners like Rihanna and Cameron Diaz have become poster children for weed and CBD beauty products are flooding the market. But how do you know how to mind your manners when it comes to marijuana if the rules haven’t been written somewhere for you to easily find them?
That’s exactly the question Lizzie Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily Post and the co-president of the Emily Post Institute, has set out to tackle with Higher Etiquette, her new book that covers social issues as they relate to cannabis culture, and updates her great-great grandmother’s theories of politeness for the 21st century.
Post’s book covers everything from how to give weed as a gift, things you might want to consider if you want to host a proper dinner party where you serve guests cannabis-infused food, how to express your own hesitations when it comes to marijuana in the home if you share your home with someone else, and, perhaps most importantly, how to go about sharing (or not sharing) with your friends. Here, a handy guide to stoner etiquette for 4/20 and beyond, courtesy of the etiquette scion herself.
What does etiquette mean to you, broadly speaking?
Etiquette is really about how we impact each other’s lives. That could be from holding a door for a total stranger all the way up to getting married to someone, conducting business with them, doing things that are really important in our lives.
With marijuana in particular, why is it important to you that people uphold manners?
For starters, the cannabis community has their own set of courtesies that have been long-established. One of the points of the book is to highlight what this community and culture has already deemed appropriate. From the Emily Post perspective, when you take something like cannabis and legalize it, and you have people now who are affected by it, whether you are a consumer or not. It is going to impact the social scenes around you. It is going to impact—especially if there’s a retail value—what your town looks like, and what your friends are engaging with. We really found that at this particular point in time, as cannabis goes through this big culture shift, that it is a really good point for Emily Post to enter the conversation.
So you’re updating a pre-existing set of standards for this contemporary moment?
You got it. Expanding it, even. Like, I always imagine, when did something like cornering bowls, or lighting it from the side in order to conserve cannabis, really catch on? I wish we had the history going back. We can find the history of the legend of 420, but I’m curious to know when that became a thing that people realized they should do, to conserve their weed when sharing, out of a general sense of courtesy.
How much emphasis do you think should be placed on sharing?
Between consideration and respect, I couldn’t tell you which is more important because I think they go hand in hand. No matter what, if you can’t be generous with something or can’t share it, at least you can be considerate and respectful about the people around you.
Let’s say you have a guest staying with you, and you want to share some of your weed with them, but they end up taking more than what you offered. How would you navigate that situation?
The best way to curb that is for you to be the one to give it to them. [Laughs.] You break apart the nugget or you pick it out. Often times, it’s always that quasi-tense moment of, “How much are they going to share with me?” And on the other side, you’re sitting there wondering, “How much do you need and how much can I afford to give out?” There’s a balance there, but I think it’s best for the person giving to actually give cannabis, as opposed to the person who is asking just taking it out of the jar.
A lot of these social “rules” have historically been unspoken and unwritten, but do you encourage people to ask questions in these scenarios?
You don’t know something unless someone’s ever brought it up with you before. Like, I didn’t know about cornering bowls until three or four years into consuming cannabis. That was something a friend taught me at one point, and I was like, oh my gosh that makes total sense. I have another friend who doesn’t corner any bowls when he lights them. He just burns the whole top of it and doesn’t think about it or care.
Another scenario: let’s say you live with someone who smokes a lot and it’s getting to the point where it’s bothersome for you. How do you suggest someone bring that up with their roommate?
I think honesty is really the best policy, but it is going to be in how you deliver this news that’s going to make the difference between if the interaction goes well or not. One of the best things you can do is ask them if they have time to chat about some roommate topics, and invite them to bring their own to the table if they have any. Once you have the permission to talk about it, you can simply let them know, “Cannabis smoke doesn’t bother me that much but the frequency with which it’s happening around here is starting to get to me and I was wondering if sometimes you could take it outside, or if we can open the window.” Whatever it is that’s going to make you feel more comfortable, offer that as a suggestion. And be prepared for counter suggestions! Someone might be a little annoyed at first, but let them work their way through it and give it a little bit of space to change. It’s your home and you have a right to be comfortable but so does the other person. Even recognizing that sometimes makes someone feel less put out.
When it comes to giving or receiving gifts, what are some of your favorite cannabis-related gifts?
My most standard cannabis-related gift is just a pre-rolled joint. I love rolling joints for my friends! I have a group of friends who don’t really roll joints, and when I was in college everybody rolled the same style. Now, I feel like a lot don’t know how to roll or are not confident in their rolling so that’s something I like giving to them. I’ll personalize it and put a little message on the filter, or make sure it’s one of their favorite strains. The world of cannabis gifting is so large. My parents bought me a cannabis doormat for my birthday. I think they’re getting a little excited to see it pop into mainstream America. The biggest thing is that you just want to let people know what kind of product you’re getting someone and what the potency is.
What’s one key element to consider when hosting a cannabis-infused dinner party?
The number one tip is communication. You absolutely want to communicate to your guests, both with the invitation and when they’re actually at your house, in terms of the food and beverage you provide whether cannabis is incorporated in it, and how much, and what the potential effects could be. Especially as people get into states where regulation happens more and you can really get more information about the cannabis that you purchase, you’ll be able to gauge the recipes or pre-packaged food that you buy and be able to actually tell them how many milligrams are in it. Not only can you make dishes that are infused, but have the exact same meal available that’s not infused, so that at any point during the dinner, someone could be enjoying cannabis infused or non-infused dishes based on how they’re feeling as they consume and as the high starts to hit them. Also, if you’re planning on having everything infused, do it at really low doses so that by the end of the meal, you’ll have a full dose. Each individual serving shouldn’t be anywhere close to a full dose.
The Emily Post name is associated with being prim and proper, and you mentioned that your parents are supportive now, but what was it like navigating your relationship to cannabis as you grew up?
They’re really excited! Ever since we started this project, they’ve been really on it with the news. Anytime a state chooses to go forward with cannabis or not, they send me the press clippings and things like that. They’re also very excited any time they see cannabis stuff popping up in the mainstream. They immediately, without a question, thought that the book was a good idea for our company, and were really happy with how it turned out, both the design and the content. When they would edit the different versions of the manuscripts before going to the publisher, their comments were hysterical. They don’t consume cannabis themselves but they’re supportive. They wanted me to grow up without influences until I was an adult who could make decisions for myself—don’t drink, or do drugs, or smoke cigarettes, that sort of thing.
What would Emily Post think of this book?
I think she would be for it in terms of the fact that it’s a topic that’s affecting millions of Americans right now. Millions of Americans are engaged with it whether they consume cannabis or not. From that perspective, she’d be really for it. She also fought very hard against the prohibition of alcohol. She herself did not drink, but she really did not believe that the government should be interfering with what she believed were citizens’ rights. I do think she would probably liken cannabis to alcohol in that realm and say it’s a choice that citizens should be allowed to make themselves. But I can guarantee you she would not have been a fan of my smoking joints! She did not appreciate smoke. I think combustion of any kind she would be bothered by or find inappropriate for her great-great granddaughter to be doing publicly. But it was much more based on the smoke. Who knows what she might’ve thought of tinctures and edibles! She might’ve been all for it.
Even before he was born, it was clear that the boy’s brain was unusual—so much so that his expecting parents flew from rural Alaska to Seattle, where specialists could attend to their son from birth. That is how James Bennett first met the boy, then a days-old infant struggling to breathe. The baby’s head was too big. The structures in his brain looked wrong. Bennett, a pediatric geneticist at Seattle Children’s, was tasked with figuring out why.
The answer was ultimately stranger than doctors could have imagined: The boy’s brain was missing an entire type of cell, called microglia, the result of mutations in a single gene, called CSF1R. Doctors had never seen anything like it.
Microglia make up 10 percent of the brain’s cells, but they are not neurons and therefore have long been overlooked. The boy’s case makes their importance unmistakable. In the absence of microglia, the boy’s neurons still grew to fill his skull, but they ended up in the wrong places and made the wrong connections. Microglia, scientists have started to realize, guide the development of the brain.
“There wasn’t any part of the brain that wasn’t involved and affected in this child,” Bennett says. A part of the baby’s cerebellum jutted at an odd angle. His ventricles, normally small fluid-filled cavities in the brain, were too large. And a dense bundle of nerves that is supposed to connect the brain’s left and right hemispheres, called the corpus callosum, had entirely failed to develop.
In petri dishes and in animals, scientists had previously observed how microglia guide developing neurons to the right locations, creating the highly organized layers that make up the brain. They also prune connections between neurons. “Things get off track pretty quickly when you start manipulating the functions of microglia,” says Stephen Noctor, a developmental neurobiologist at the University of California at Davis who was not involved in examining the boy. To better understand the CSF1R gene, Bennett teamed up with zebra-fish biologists. In fish, turning off the gene disrupts a cellular pathway necessary for corpus-callosum neurons to grow in humans.
Kim Green, a neurobiologist at the University of California at Irvine, notes that mutant mice lacking microglia have broadly similar patterns of disorganization in their brains. These mice models essentially predicted what would happen in a human. Green had just never expected to see a person without microglia. “It’s absolutely remarkable,” he says.
The boy’s brain helped unlock these scientific mysteries. But he was ultimately still a boy, a very sick one with worried young parents. Their son’s condition was so severe, it turns out, because he had inherited two faulty copies of the CSF1R gene—one from each parent. His parents happened to carry the same rare mutation because they are cousins.
In adults, just one copy of a CSF1R mutation can lead to a brain disorder called adult-onset leukoencephalopathy with axonal spheroids and pigmented glia, which causes memory loss and eventually dementia beginning in one’s 40s. When the boy’s DNA-sequencing results came back, Bennett realized that he had to explain to the parents their own CSF1R mutation and their risks of developing the disorder. They were relieved, he says, to understand what was wrong with their child, but perhaps too overwhelmed to fully take in what it meant for their lives. The couple spoke with a genetic counselor before their son’s DNA sequencing, and Bennett says he arranged to have them meet with another genetic counselor back in Alaska, where they returned home.
This story has no miracle cure or happy ending. The boy died in Alaska at 10 months old of likely related causes, and Bennett says the family agreed to an autopsy. They have since lost touch. The phone numbers he has for them no longer work. He told me that he recently got hold of the mother’s sister, in an attempt to tell the family about the research made possible by their child. It’s a delicate balance: He feels a duty to inform, but he understands that the parents might not want to be reminded of their dead son.
A pediatric geneticist’s job, Bennett said, is often to diagnose extremely rare conditions, which push up against the limits of the human body. “On any day, you can find a patient you spend the rest of your career thinking about,” he said. The boy is one of them.
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It is a cocktail party and the room is filled with people engaged in many different conversations. Suddenly you think that you hear someone mention your name. You don’t recognize the voice of the speaker, but your attentionhas been caught and you focus in on that particular conversation, screening out all other sounds from your brain while you follow what is being said.
Names have that power for people, especially your first name. They have such a strong psychological pull that first responders in crisis situations (such as paramedics and firemen) are trained to find out the name of a person who appears to be wavering on the brink of unconsciousness so that they can use it when speaking to the injured person in order to see if there is any response. If there is even a flicker of consciousness, a person hearing their name (even spoken by an unfamiliar voice) will try to turn their head, or at least their eyes, in the direction of whoever is speaking their given name.
Does a dog’s name have the same power to attract and focus the animal’s attention? Dog trainers and canine behaviorists are divided on this issue. When I was first learning the basics of dog training I was always instructed to begin each command with the dog’s name. Therefore, the correct grammar when addressing a dog would be “Lassie come,” “Lassie sit,” or “Lassie down.” The rationale was that saying the dog’s name caught its attention and informed it that the next sound that came from your mouth was directed toward him. In beginners’ dog classes, especially if the room is noisy and there is a lot of activity, you can often observe the effects of not following that grammatical principle. When the novice trainer says “Down Lassie” instead of “Lassie down,” the dog often looks at the trainer’s face in confusion. You get the impression that the command (in this instance “down”) has gone unnoticed by the dog, but when it hears its name it catches the dog’s attention, and now he is looking at the human’s face. He is not responding to the “down” command, however: What seems to be running through the dog’s mind is something like, “Okay, you have my full focused attention. So what is it that you want me to do?”
However, many contemporary dog trainers would disagree. Their argument is that there is nothing special about a dog’s name. If the dog is already focused on you, then, they say, there is no need to use the name: Simply giving the command should suffice. They agree that saying a dog’s name will often capture the dog’s attention, but they disagree that there is something special about the name itself. They believe that the name is simply a bit of sound which alerts the dog to the fact that their trainer is uttering something. The importance of the spoken name is just that it is in the trainer’s familiar voice and that means it’s a sound that demands attention. According to this principle, any arbitrary sound preceding the command, even if it is meaningless and has no relationship to the dog’s name, would work just as well, as long as the utterance was produced in the trainer’s familiar voice. Thus you might as well say “Refrigerator come” or “Refrigerator down.”
Further, these trainers suggest that a dog’s name, spoken by a completely unfamiliar voice, should have little or no effect in capturing the dog’s attention.
A team of researchers led by Amritha Mallikarjun of the University of Maryland-College Park decided to test whether there really is an attention-getting power in a dog’s name, much as there is in a human’s name. They chose canine test subjects who averaged a bit over four years of age and had, therefore, heard their name continuously for a substantial amount of time.
To create the target stimulus, prior to the test visit, each dog owner was asked the name or nickname that their dog was most commonly called by. This name was then recorded, and repeated 15 times, by a female native English speaker from Eastern Pennsylvania. The idea was that the dog would hear either its own name or the name of another dog in the study spoken by the same unfamiliar female voice. In addition, as a background distractor, the researchers mimicked the sounds of a noisy party by having nine different women recording passages read from nine different text sources, all of which could be mixed together to form a backdrop drone of human voices.
The test situation consisted of a small booth in which the dog and its owner sat. On either side, there was a speaker through which the various sounds could be played. The notion was simple: If the dog’s attention was caught by a particular sound it was presumed to be highly likely that the dog would turn its head in the direction of that sound. A video camera mounted in the booth monitored the dog’s responses, and the videos were scored to determine how long the dog paid attention to a particular sound stream played on either of the speakers.
The dogs were presented with sound streams containing either their own name or the name of another dog repeated over a 22-second period. This was repeated for several blocks of trials. Contrary to the expectations of some trainers, even though the voice saying their name was completely unfamiliar, the dogs paid more attention to their own name sounds than to the sound of an unfamiliar name. Furthermore, even when the sounds of the dogs’ names were superimposed on a medium-level distractor stream of conversational sounds, the dogs would focus more on the speaker voicing their own name. In a follow-up experiment, the researchers made the sound level of the dog’s name and the sound level of the distracting background conversations the same, and even under those difficult conditions, the sound of the dog’s name had a strong enough psychological pull to cause the animal to focus most of its attention on the speaker producing it.
The results seem quite clear: A dog’s name has psychological power. It attracts the dog’s attention even when the name is spoken by a voice unfamiliar to the animal, and even when their name is competing with an environment filled with other human voices saying a variety of irrelevant things. This seems to suggest that the practice of preceding a command with a dog’s name is, in fact, a sensible and effective way of capturing the dog’s attention, especially in a noisy environment. The investigators conclude:
“Our study shows that generally, dogs will behaviorally respond to their name even if a sound source is not immediately clear. This has practical implications for working dogs, like search-and-rescue dogs that may need to take commands from someone other than their handler in emergency situations, and may need to do so at a distance, when the speaker is out of view….even in the context of multitalker background babble.”
Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission
By now, you’ve likely heard that mindfulness and meditation come with a bunch of health benefits. The practices have the potential to reduce stress and anxiety, ease pain and fatigue, help you make healthier food choices, fight premature aging, and even boost your immunity.
But that’s not where the perks end: An emerging body of research suggests that mindfulness may boost your sex life, too, increasing desire (and even lubrication), helping with sexual satisfaction, and your confidence.
“What we’re bringing together is the mind and the body—the physical, sexual response,” says Cheryl Fraser, PhD, a clinical psychologist, sex therapist, and author of Buddha’s Bedroom. “Meditation is essentially the ability to focus our attention, our concentration, and our mind on whatever the chosen meditation object is—and great sex is all in your head.”
But what exactly is sexual meditation and how can you put it to use for, you know, better sex and more orgasms? Ahead, experts explain:
What is sexual meditation, exactly?
First, sexual meditation isn’t quite a term used by experts in the field. They refer to mindfulness and meditation more broadly, studying how the practices apply to sex.
Terminology aside, the idea is all about bringing the skills of mindfulness into a sexual context, explains Lori Brotto, PhD, director of the University of British Columbia Sexual Health Laboratory and author of Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire.
To this point, sexual meditation can be many different things: It can simply refer to a general mindfulness or meditation practice, a more mindful approach to sex while you’re in the moment, partner exercises that have sexual and mindfulness components, or specific mindfulness work that could have particular payoff during sex.
The benefits of sexual meditation
Both general mindfulness and meditation can have big benefits for your sex life. These are five of the biggest ones, according to experts:
It reduces stress, which makes sex more enjoyable.
“Sex is stressful for a lot of people,” says Brotto, who notes that this is especially true if you have sexual difficulties, such as pain during sex, insecurities, or communication issues. “During sex, all sorts of worries and preoccupations can create stress and that is reflected in the stress response system in the body,” she explains.
And as that stress response becomes activated, it becomes difficult to feel aroused. “We know when we can manage this response, we’re much more likely to experience arousal,” Brotto says. Mindfulness naturally decreases stress, since it helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, balances out your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your stress response. The result: You enjoy the moment more.
It teaches you to focus on the present, leading to better orgasms.
“Focus intently on what you’re doing” is not a profound or complicated instruction, admits Fraser. But anyone whose mind has wandered to dirty dishes or the kids’ homework during sex can agree that it’s not always the easiest order to follow.
“Meditation is the ability to focus the mind and we’re really lousy at that,” says Fraser, adding that “meditative focus makes your senses blaze.” Learning how to hone in on the here and now—a kiss, touch, or other sensation—can help you be more present.
The benefit: “Sex itself can be a better, hotter, more sensual experience,” Fraser says. When you’re better able to tune into your partner stroking your leg or running a finger along your neck, you’re able to experience more intensity. Brotto adds that meditation can also increase activity in parts of the brain linked to interoceptive awareness—or how aware you are of different body parts.
It can increase your sex drive.
Really. Research finds that a mindfulness practice can help increase sexual desire and how much you want to have sex, says Fraser. “You’re more likely to initiate if you’re practicing mindfulness and applying it to your sex life.”
It’s not that a little Om is suddenly going to turn you on, but rather that the qualities of mindfulness—the ability to pay fairly close, focused attention to what’s actually happening, which in turn allows you to be more present and enjoy those happenings more—can build off of one another, strengthening your drive.
“When people start a mindfulness practice, they tend to continue over time because they are so motivated,” adds Brotto.
It can make you closer with your partner.
How much you enjoy sex matters. But often, sex is also about that connection and love for your partner, says Fraser. And if you’re able to root yourself in the present moment, you’ll also be more acutely aware of the other person in the room, allowing you to reconnect in a more meaningful way.
Sex will feel fresh again.
“If you can train your mind to show up, it creates novelty, it creates excitement, and it creates a type of connection that generally we have only experienced early on in our love affair,” says Fraser. That means, in many ways, retraining your mind via meditation and mindfulness can recreate that honeymoon-type feeling you may not have felt in a while, instilling a new sense of excitement in your sex life.
How to practice sexual meditation
On your own or with your partner, there are multiple different ways to pick up a sexual mindfulness or meditation practice. Here are a few ways the experts suggest you get started.
1. Start a simple, daily mindfulness practice.
If you’re not meditating or creating any moments of mindfulness at all in your average day-to-day, it’s time to start. “I advocate really strongly for, first and foremost, a general, structured mindfulness practice,” says Brotto. This might include simply sitting quietly to meditate on your own and focusing on your breathing or it could involve meditating with the help of an app such as Calm or Headspace.
Building skills and learning to focus on your breath, the moment, and other sensations can help you adopt your newfound habit in the bedroom, she notes.
2. Do this back-to-back partner activity together.
“Mindfulness exercises can be done with a partner and I often advocate doing them together,” says Brotto. One she likes: Sit or stand back-to-back and do a body scan, where you mentally scan how your body feels from head to toe, noting any parts that feel tense or relaxed. Focus on the points of contact between you and your partner. Hone in on factors such as texture, pressure, and temperature—things you can pick up on in sexual moments, too, suggests Brotto.
3. Open your eyes while you meditate, then try it during sex.
Closing your eyes during meditation can be helpful because it eliminates distraction from the visual field, says Fraser. But too often, a lack of eye contact in sex can keep us from connecting with our partner.
To refine this skill, Fraser suggests finding mindful moments when you keep your eyes open, such as sitting and looking out a window at a beautiful spring scene or staring at a plant in your apartment, taking in its different parts.
Focusing on something beautiful when you’re not in the bedroom can help you do it when you are, she says. In the moment, especially if you’re feeling yourself getting pulled elsewhere, try to gaze into your partner’s eyes. This can regroup you into the here and now, says Brotto.
4. Better yet, try this eye contact exercise.
At a quiet time during the day, sit face-to-face with your partner and gaze into his or her eyes for three full minutes, suggests Fraser. Better yet: Gaze into only one eye, which is not something people do very often but can actually be more intense than switching between both eyes, she says. It’s okay to giggle and feel uncomfortable but try not to talk.
You can advance the exercise by kissing with your eyes open, focusing in on the sensations. When you’re more comfortable simply looking at each other outside of the bedroom, it should come easier in the heat of the moment (playing up that connection factor), she says.
5. Take a distracting thought in a sexier direction.
If you notice your mind wandering during sex, drop the thought and swap it for a sexual one, suggests Fraser. While using your erotic imagination to think of something sexy isn’t exactly what it means to be in the moment, it’s something Fraser often suggests to people to help bring them closer to the sexual experience at hand. “Mental distraction is number one sex drive killer and this is a step in the right direction,” she says.
Eventually, with practice, you might not need this bridge and might be able to simply drop the thought to focus on the intensity of a touch or smell in the moment.
6. Try a ‘slow sex’ session.
In a crazy, fast-paced world, slowing down your mind is difficult. It’s also not something we do all that often. That’s why Fraser suggests that people have really slow sex from time to time (or that they practice really slow sexual activities).
Her advice: Have one session where one person is the ‘giver’ and one is the ‘receiver’ and simply concentrate on slow, erotic touch or seduction. Training your mind and body to slow down can not only improve mental focus but also curiosity, helping you to realize certain touches you might not have known you liked or sensations you hadn’t noticed before.
“Three things in human life are important,” wrote novelist Henry James in the early 20th century. “The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”
As one of humankind’s cardinal virtues and most cherished social currencies, kindness – no doubt – is important. According to one hypothesis, pro-social traits like kindness may have even primed our species for the evolution of language. As children and as adults, we seek kindness from our friends and our mates. We spend our days giving and receiving kindness. We remember kindness, too, its trail of goodwill echoing through our memory banks like sweet perfume, long after the moment has passed. Kindness moves us. It nourishes and heals; strengthens and uplifts. A smile, a touch born of kindness can crack open the most rugged of hearts, unclench the tightest of fists. It has been hailed by poets, philosophers and spiritual leaders as a gift, a religion, a language audible to the deaf and visible to the blind, a weapon to fight evil, and mankind’s greatest delight. And now, science is showing just why the accolades ring true.
Kindness boosts well-being
If you recall the rush of positive feelings you experienced the last time you performed a kind act, you would likely agree that kindness feels good. This distinct sense of satisfaction, the “warm glow” or the “helper’s high” that ignites the brain’s reward systems, is said to be among the drivers of pro-social behavior in humans. Kindness not only feels good but also does us good. To begin with, connecting with others through kind deeds allows us to meet our basic psychological needs of relatedness and belonging. Performing acts of kindness can also increase life satisfaction, positive mood, and peer acceptance. It can stimulate the release of serotonin and oxytocin, which can increase trust, reduce fear and anxiety, and help us read each other’s minds. For the elderly, prosocial behavior can promote longevity. For teenagers, it can boost self-esteem. Kindness also makes us happy. Researchers at Oxford University recently found that we can increase our happiness levels when we are kind to those with whom we enjoy close as well as weak ties (for example, family and strangers). Even observing others perform kind acts and, importantly, being kind to ourselves, can make us happier.
For psychotherapist and author of The Kindness Cure Dr. Tara Cousineau, kindness is a moment of human connection. Since every interaction carries the potential of threat and reward, it takes vulnerability and courage to hold these potentials at the same time in this moment of connection. Perhaps that is why in our modern culture, where it is easy to grow suspicious of kindness, to see it as weak and soft, to be bombarded with messages that the world is an unsafe and unkind place, Cousineau views kindness as “love in action.”
Here are three insights into kindness from Dr. Cousineau.
Start with yourself
In her experience as a psychotherapist, Cousineau has observed how remarkably unkind people can be towards themselves when they talk about their lives. Perhaps worst of all, we don’t recognize how unkind we are to ourselves. “If we would tune into our internal dialogue, most likely we wouldn’t say those same words to someone we love: I am not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I am not something enough. We are mired in regrets from the past or worries about the future. We compare and despair,” she says. Naturally, it may be easier to be kind to others than to ourselves, so it may take some intention and effort to befriend ourselves, too.
The key to learning to be kinder to ourselves lies in self-compassion. Self-compassionstands upon three pillars: self-kindness(treating yourself with the kindness and understanding you would show to someone you love), common humanity (recognizing that you are not alone in your pain and that suffering is a shared human experience), and mindfulness (holding your negative experiences as they are – without suppressing them or over-identifying with them). As a bonus, self-compassion comes with a wealth of well-being benefits: from building resilience, optimism and healthier stress response, to reducing depression, anxiety and rumination (for review, see Neff & Germer, 2017).
Cultivate your kindness instinct
Some people are inclined to be more empathic than others. In general, however, we all are born with a kindness (compassion) instinct. Our nervous systems have evolved to have a highly attuned sensitivity to caring about others. Darwin considered the “sympathy instinct” as one of the strongest human instincts which helped our species survive and flourish. It is this instinct that we need to nurture, according to Cousineau, by strengthening our compassion muscle and its neural wiring. And not only in kindergarten, when children are taught to write thank-you notes and do kind acts but also across the lifespan. “Kindness is not random,” says Cousineau. “We have to intentionally redirect our energy and attention to noticing what is good, pleasant and beautiful about humanity.” We might be surprised at the joy we stumble upon in the process.
One way of cultivating compassion and kindness is through loving-kindness meditation. It involves closing your eyes, thinking of someone in your life who you love dearly and sending them wishes of wellbeing, love, and safety by repeating silently:
May you feel safe,
May you feel happy,
May you feel healthy,
May you live with ease.
After holding your warm and tender feelings in your heart, send them to someone else, again, repeating silently the four phrases. Don’t forget to tuck yourself in your compassion circle as well, says Cousineau. Repeat the phrases for yourself, “May I feel safe, may I feel happy…” Gradually expand your circle of people to whom you are sending your well-wishes and love to include people in your neighborhood or community, and then even further to all living beings. (Here is a guided loving-kindness meditation from psychologist Barbara Fredrickson). Practicing this meditation regularly can increase self-compassion and decrease self-criticism. Other well-being benefits of the loving-kindness meditation include increases in positive emotions, empathy, social connection, as well as a decrease in negative emotions, chronic pain and PTSD symptoms. It doesn’t take much for us to wish well upon others, whether in meditation or as we throng through crowded streets on our daily commute. And yet, we might just spill some of that goodwill on ourselves by the time we reach our destinations.
Find ways to be kind
To cultivate kindness as a practice, Cousineau invites us to reflect on one key question:
How can I bring kindness into my day, whether to me or another person, in any small way?
We could look for something generous to say about the people with whom we are interacting. We could find ways to be of service. We could recharge our days with moments of gratitude and appreciation, caring and curiosity. We could show ourselves the kindness we crave from others through self-compassion and self-care. This includes becoming aware when we feel overwhelmed, depleted and when our threat systems are ignited. After all, as Cousineau notes, stress is often what gets in the way of kindness. “It’s harder to bring online our sense of caring when we are in survival mode, even if it’s a mental state,” she notes. At the end of the day, Cousineau suggests bringing front and center of our consciousness the things that went well – the moments when we gave ourselves and others the gift of kindness – and to notice what happens. Perhaps, as Scottish biographer James Boswell wrote in the 18th century, we could witness our vessels being filled drop by drop with acts of kindness, until, at last, our hearts run over.
Many thanks to Tara Cousineau for her time and insights. Dr. Cousineau is a clinical psychologist, staff psychologist at Harvard University, and author of The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart and Your World.
When one has difficulty sleeping, the waking world seems opaque. On top of feeling tired and fatigued, those who experience sleep disturbances can be irritable and have difficulty concentrating. When one has more severe cases of insomnia, one also faces a higher risk of developing heart disease, chronic pain, hypertension, and respiratory disorders. It can also cause some to gain weight.
Sleep disruptions can also have a major impact on one’s emotional well-being. A growing body of research has found that sleep disturbances and depression have an extremely high rate of concurrence, and many researchers are convinced that the two are biconditional—meaning that one can give rise to the other, and vice-versa. A paper that was published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience concluded, “The link between the two is so fundamental that some researchers have suggested that a diagnosis of depression in the absence of sleep complaints should be made with caution.” The paper’s lead author, David Nutt—the Edmond J. Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London—found that 83 percent of depressed patients experienced some form of insomnia, which was more than double the amount (36 percent) of those without depression.
Bei Bei, Dpsych, PhD, from the Monash School of Psychological Sciences in Clayton, Australia, said the inverse was true, as well: “If a person does not currently have depression but goes through extended periods of time with sleep disturbances or insomnia, the sleep disturbances can potentially contribute to a mood disturbance or to even more severe depression.”
The Mechanisms Behind the Two Diseases
The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by what is known as the circadian process. When working properly, the circadian process operates in rhythm with the typical cycle of a day. One gets tired as the light of the day fades and the body prepares for sleep. One awakes as it becomes light again. The internal mechanisms behind the circadian cycle involve a complex orchestration of the neurochemical and the nuerophysiological presided over by the hypothalamus.
Depression, meanwhile, is a medical condition and a mood disorder. While there are several possible antecedents to depression, as genetic and environmental factors can lead to a depressive episode, the neurophysiological causes of depression pertain to a deficiency of chemicals in the brain that regulate mood: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
However, these neurotransmitters do far more than just regulate mood. They have also been found to be integral to sleep efficiency. Disruptions in these brain chemicals can lead to disturbances in sleep, particularly REMsleep, and can also lead to more restlessness during typical times when one should be in bed. This can create a vicious cycle wherein the more severe one’s depression becomes, the more severe one’s insomnia becomes. The inverse can also true: The more severe one’s insomnia becomes, the more severe one’s depression becomes.
Evaluation and Treatment
Because these concurrent afflictions reinforce one another, medical professionals need to address both simultaneously for optimal treatment. However, there is not one cookie-cutter response that can eliminate both depression and insomnia. Many variables, including improper medication, can contribute to insomnia and different symptoms indicate different causes, which is why it is important to provide your mental health professional with any information that can give them with more insight about your condition. Describing your symptoms to your doctor allows them to narrow down the list of likely culprits and prescribe medications with greater precision. For example, letting your doctor know that you wake up in the middle of the night, and then have difficulties falling back to sleep is a distinct symptom from having difficulties falling asleep in the first place.
Though depression and insomnia are commonly linked, they can be independent of one another. Then again, they may be part of a larger array of comorbid disorders that require specific treatment plans to resolve. To determine the best course of action, your doctor may recommend a sleep study, medication, or a behavioral therapy.
A sleep study is a test that measures how much and how well you sleep. During this test, you will be monitored by a team of sleep specialists who will be able to determine if there are any other disorders, such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea, that may be causing your insomnia. Even if the study does not reveal a definitive culprit, the sleep study will also allow your doctor to get a better picture about what is behind your insomnia.
Sleeping pills may help you fall asleep, but they are not long-term solutions to mental health. If you are suffering from a bout of insomnia that is related to a psychiatric disorder, you need to address that disorder to address your insomnia. Oftentimes, this will require a treatment plan that includes a pharmaceutical component. This component will be unique to each patient, as there is not a one-size-fits-all regimen of medication for optimal mental health. Furthermore, there are numerous comorbidities with depression, such as anxiety, that may be contributing to your insomnia and that may not be resolved by certain types of anti-depressants alone.
Another potential treatment involves a combination of medication, light treatment, and melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the circadian process. The conditions of patients who receive light therapy in conjunction with antidepressant therapy tend to show more improvement than those who are prescribed antidepressants alone. This is true for patients with seasonal and nonseasonal depression.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
In other cases, some mental health professionals may recommend you see a sleep specialist to receive cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) involves numerous non-drug techniques to induce sleep and it can be utilized before resorting to the use of pharmacological sleep aids with surprisingly good results.
Several studies have shown CBTI to be quite effective in treating insomnia and some forms of depression. A paper published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2006 concluded that “The benefits of CBTI extend beyond insomnia and include improvements in non-sleep outcomes, such as overall well-being and depressive symptom severity, including suicidalideation, among patients with baseline elevations.” A paper published in the International Review of Psychiatry in 2014 found that CBTI may help with other comorbidities beyond depression. These include anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse issues.
The National Sleep Foundation notes that this type of therapy can still be quite intensive. CBTI requires regular visits to a clinician for assessment, keeping a sleep diary, and, perhaps most importantly, the changing of behaviors that may be felt as though they are firmly part of one’s routine. CBTI may also include some sleep hygiene education, where patients learn how different settings and actions can inhibit or promote sleep. It may also rely on relaxation training, where patients learn methods of calming their bodies and minds.
If you are struggling with either depression, insomnia, or both, treatments are available. The above studies demonstrate that there are holistic approaches, as well as pharmaceutical remedies, that can help induce sleep without the aid of sleeping pills. It is also a reminder that the most effective treatment plans are tailored to both the individual patient and the patient’s concurrent illnesses.
LinkedIn Image Credit: Kleber Cordeiro/Shutterstock
Looking for inspiration for a Monday morning, then you have come to the right place. It’s really not that difficult to live an extraordinary life. Most people look at those who are having success around them, and desire the same thing, but end up tossing their dreams in the too-hard-basket. They don’t understand that going from ordinary […]
If you’re more of the lone wolf type we have some good news for you: You may be a genius.
According to a 2016 study by researchers at Singapore Management University and the London School of Economics, those who exhibit high IQ scores experience lower life satisfaction when they socialize more often. And that means those smarty pants types likely choose to spend more time alone.
To come to this conclusion, the team analyzed survey responses that were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. That survey, Inverseexplained, measured life satisfaction, intelligence, and health.
In total, the team looked at the responses of 15,197 individuals between the ages of 18 and 28. The data showed that while spending time in dense crowds (for example, at a party) leads to unhappiness. However, socialization with close friends typically leads to happiness. Unless, of course, the person exhibits high intelligence.
These contradicting feelings may all be thanks to our hunter and gatherer ancestors. The authors, Inverse reported, explained the findings with the “savanna theory of happiness.”
WATCH: Research Says: Your Mother Influenced Your Intelligence
“The savanna theory of happiness is the idea that life satisfaction is not only determined by what’s happening in the present but also influenced by the ways our ancestors may have reacted to the event,” reporter Sarah Slot wrote. She added, “evolutionary psychology argues that, just like any other organ, the human brain has been designed for and adapted to the conditions of an ancestral environment. Therefore, the researchers argue, our brains may have trouble comprehending and dealing with situations that are unique to the present.”
In plain speech, this means that while our ancestors got to spend more time with close friends and family in less densely populated areas, we modern humans are stuck being surrounded by strangers all the time thanks to the population boom over the last several thousand years.
“In general, more intelligent individuals are more likely to have ‘unnatural’ preferences and values that our ancestors did not have,” researcher Satoshi Kanazawa told Inverse. “It is extremely natural for species like humans to seek and desire friendships and, as a result, more intelligent individuals are likely to seek them less.”
Beyond an intelligent person’s preferences to be alone, the team also found that smarter people were less likely to feel that they benefited from friendships. Again, this may be because our ancestors tended to benefit from group thinking, while our more intelligent ancestors were able to solve problems alone.
So, next time you feel like bailing on plans with your friends to stay in and watch a movie alone go ahead and do it. It’s the smartest decision you’ll ever make.
Canadians are not getting enough sleep — and we really need it.
“We are a chronically sleep-deprived society,” Alanna McGinn, the owner of Good Night Sleep Site, told Global News. “It really is a growing concern.”
Data shows that about one in four Canadians are dissatisfied with the quality of their sleep, and an even greater proportion of us have problems getting to bed.
According to a recent government report, 43 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women between the ages of 18 and 64 say they have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep sometimes, most, or all of the time. Experts say that stress, technology use and not going to bed early enough, are all playing a role.
This lack of sleep has serious consequences on our well-being, as sleep deprivation is associated with heart disease, diabetes and depression.
So what helps us hit the hay? Here, sleep experts share their tips on how to create a positive sleep environment that will foster quality rest.
Turn off technology
Many of us like to “unwind” by watching TV before bed, or have a tendency to stream shows on our laptops while tucked in.
But according to Dr. Reut Gruber, a sleep researcher and associate professor in the department of psychiatry at McGill University, using gadgets before bedtime is hurting us.
WATCH BELOW: Five benefits of working out in the morning
Gruber said that devices like laptops and phones put us in a state of “hyper-arousal,” which makes it hard for our bodies to prepare for sleep. Checking our emails before bed is a bad idea, too, as this may increase our anxiety — which is also a sleep killer.
Then there’s the light that devices omit.
“The light from our devices is really harmful,” said Beth Wyatt, a GTA-based insomnia coach. “Staring at those devices all day and all night is really not helpful in transitioning into a peaceful slumber.”
To combat this, experts say it’s important to avoid bringing devices into the bedroom. If you use your phone as your alarm, keep it on silent and face down so no alerts can wake you.
Our body temperatures can affect how well we sleep, Gruber said, and running too hot in the night may wake us.
McGinn said that cotton bedding or other breathable fabrics are best for sleeping, as microfibers — like fleece or plush — keep heat in.
WATCH BELOW: Having a baby? Don’t expect to sleep for at least six years
What you wear to bed can also play a role in how well you sleep.
McGinn said pyjama styles are a personal choice, and knowing how hot or cold you get in the night can help you pick out the right pair.
“If you’re a person who tends to sleep hot, you really want to focus on natural fibres that are going to help with perspiration,” McGinn said.
“A lot of people think if they’re hot, it’s better to sleep in nothing, but what tends to happen is they end up sweating into their sheets and being in wetness — which isn’t comfortable.”
READ MORE: Super Awesome Science Show — Disturbed sleep
Dark, cool and quiet
The spring and summer months bring more hours of light — which is great for waking up but not so great for falling asleep.
Experts say your bedroom should be cool and dark, as both help promote rest.
“When you turn out the lights and cover the windows at night, it should be pitch black,” Wyatt said. “Even the smallest light can affect our sleep.”
She suggests black-out curtains and adjustable lighting. “Choose light bulbs that have a soft, warm glow to them instead of bright, fluorescent blue,” she added.
WATCH BELOW: The growing popularity of weighted blankets
If you’re someone who is bothered by noise, you may want to try a white noise machine, McGinn said. Or, in the warmer months, running a fan to help regulate temperature and noise.
“I find mornings are a lot louder in the spring and summer — birds are louder and chattier — so fans will help drown out those external sounds,” she explained.
Keep your bedroom clean
A cluttered room is not a sleep-positive room, experts say.
Gruber said your room should be “clear of anything that’s stimulating.” Research shows that clutter and mess can cause stress, and stress can hinder sleep.
“An uncluttered, clean space is key,” Wyatt said. “When you’re looking out from your bed at all the things you need to get rid of, it’s not helpful.”
McGinn said it’s also important to keep our bedroom spaces for sleeping and sex only. The goal, she said, is to create a “sleep sanctuary” that promotes rest — not work.
“Our bedrooms can become our home office, our entertainment centre, our kids’ playroom … and we really want to work on strengthening that positive association between sleep and our bed,” McGinn said.
WATCH BELOW: Excessive sleep, lack of sleep can lead to cognitive impairment: study
Keep a sleep schedule
Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time fosters quality sleep, McGinn said.
Getting the right quantity of sleep — which is typically between seven to eight hours — is also key. “We really should be basing our bedtime off of our wake time, because when we wake in the morning is really dictated by our lifestyles,” McGinn said.
This is especially important in the summer, McGinn said, as we often stay up later and get less sleep when the sun is out longer. “We all tend to go into the fall really sleep deprived.”
“Following consistently sleep patterns during the summer months can really help us start the new fall year better rested.”
Having close access to ultra-successful people can yield some pretty incredible information about who they really are, what makes them tick, and, most importantly, what makes them so successful and productive.
“Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” – Vaibhav Shah
Kevin Kruse is one such person. He recently interviewed over 200 ultra-successful people, including 7 billionaires, 13 Olympians, and a host of accomplished entrepreneurs. One of his most revealing sources of information came from their answers to a simple open-ended question:
“What is your number one secret to productivity?”
In analyzing their responses, Kruse coded the answers to yield some fascinating suggestions. What follows are some of my favorites from Kevin’s findings.
They focus on minutes, not hours. Most people default to hour and half-hour blocks on their calendar; highly successful people know that there are 1,440 minutes in every day and that there is nothing more valuable than time. Money can be lost and made again, but time spent can never be reclaimed. As legendary Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller told Kevin, “To this day, I keep a schedule that is almost minute by minute.” You must master your minutes to master your life.
They focus on only one thing. Ultra-productive people know what their “Most Important Task” is and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions. What task will have the biggest impact on reaching your goals? What accomplishment will get you promoted at work? That’s what you should dedicate your mornings to every day.
They don’t use to-do lists. Throw away your to-do list; instead schedule everything on your calendar. It turns out that only 41% of items on to-do lists ever get done. All those undone items lead to stress and insomnia because of the Zeigarnik effect, which, in essence, means that uncompleted tasks will stay on your mind until you finish them. Highly productive people put everything on their calendar and then work and live by that calendar.
They beat procrastination with time travel. Your future self can’t be trusted. That’s because we are time inconsistent. We buy veggies today because we think we’ll eat healthy salads all week; then we throw out green rotting mush in the future. Successful people figure out what they can do now to make certain their future selves will do the right thing. Anticipate how you will self-sabotage in the future, and come up with a solution today to defeat your future self.
They make it home for dinner. Kevin first learned this one from Intel’s Andy Grove, who said, “There is always more to be done, more that should be done, always more than can be done.” Highly successful people know what they value in life. Yes, work, but also what else they value. There is no right answer, but for many, these other values include family time, exercise, and giving back. They consciously allocate their 1,440 minutes a day to each area they value (i.e., they put them on their calendar), and then they stick to that schedule.
They use a notebook. Richard Branson has said on more than one occasion that he wouldn’t have been able to build Virgin without a simple notebook, which he takes with him wherever he goes. In one interview, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis said, “Always carry a notebook. Write everything down. . .. That is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!” Ultra-productive people free their minds by writing everything down as the thoughts come to them.
They process e-mails only a few times a day. Ultra-productive people don’t “check” their e-mail throughout the day. They don’t respond to each vibration or ding to see who has intruded into their inbox. Instead, like everything else, they schedule time to process their e-mails quickly and efficiently. For some, that’s only once a day; for others, it’s morning, noon, and night.
They avoid meetings at all costs. When Kevin asked Mark Cuban to give his best productivity advice, he quickly responded, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” Meetings are notorious time killers. They start late, have the wrong people in them, meander around their topics, and run long. You should get out of meetings whenever you can and hold fewer of them yourself. If you do run a meeting, keep it short and to the point.
They say “no” to almost everything. Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” And James Altucher colorfully gave Kevin this tip: “If something is not a ‘Hell Yeah!’ then it’s a no.” Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes in a day. Don’t give them away easily.
They follow the 80/20 rule. Known as the Pareto Principle, in most cases, 80% of results come from only 20% of activities. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results. Focus on those and ignore the rest.
They delegate almost everything. Ultra-productive people don’t ask, “How can I do this task?” Instead, they ask, “How can this task get done?” They take the I out of it as much as possible. Ultra-productive people don’t have control issues, and they are not micro-managers. In many cases, good enough is, well, good enough.
They touch things only once. How many times have you opened a piece of regular mail—a bill perhaps—and then put it down, only to deal with it again later? How often do you read an e-mail and then close it and leave it in your inbox to deal with later? Highly successful people try to “touch it once.” If it takes less than five or ten minutes—whatever it is—they deal with it right then and there. It reduces stress since it won’t be in the back of their minds, and it is more efficient, since they won’t have to re-read or re-evaluate the item again in the future.
They practice a consistent morning routine. Kevin’s single greatest surprise while interviewing over 200 highly successful people was how many of them wanted to share their morning ritual with him. While he heard about a wide variety of habits, most nurtured their bodies in the morning with water, a healthy breakfast, and light exercise, and they nurtured their minds with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading, or journaling.
Bringing It All Together
You might not be an entrepreneur, an Olympian, or a billionaire (or even want to be), but their secrets just might help you to get more done in less time and assist you to stop feeling so overworked and overwhelmed.
What do you do to stay productive? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
Special thanks to Kevin Kruse for assistance with this post.
While the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses can be tricky to spot, it helps to consider how they might show up in the form of certain daily habits. By knowing what to look for, it can be easier to see these habits for what they really are, and even get some help. Because if they’re holding you back, or negatively impacting your life, then they very well may be something worth treating.
“A habit becomes a sign of mental illness once it hijacks your physical and/or mental well-being and interferes with your [life],” Dr. Georgia Witkin, Progyny’s head of patient services development, tells Bustle. “For instance, constant worry [can lead you] to make life-altering changes, such as not leaving the house,” which can impact your career, relationships, and hobbies.
These habits can take many forms, and will be different for everyone. But what you’ll want to keep an eye out for are habits that seem out of character, or ones that are making life more difficult. When that’s the case, “it’s worth a visit to a healthcare provider who can help to identify and address the underlying issue(s),” Susan Weinstein, co-executive director of Families for Depression Awareness, tells Bustle.
With that in mind, read on below for some habits that can be a sign of a mental health concern, according to experts.
1. Wanting To Spend More Time Alone
“No longer wanting to see loved ones or participating in hobbies is indicative of mental illness,” Dr. Witkin says, with depression being one of the most likely culprits, since it can make it difficult to go about your usual routine.
That said, it’s always OK to take time for yourself, and hang out alone. But if you used to go out, see friends, or enjoy certain hobbies, it may be a good idea to reach out to a therapist, if you can no longer find the energy to do so.
2. Missing Work Or Appointments
If you’re generally on top of your schedule, but have developed the habit of showing up late to work, calling out, or blowing off appointments, take note.
“Individuals [that] frequently disengage could be dealing with high anxiety, which often leads to avoidance, or possibly depression, which can lead to an inability to reach out,” Reynelda Jones, LMSW, CAADC, ADS, tells Bustle.
Even things like bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues, can make it difficult to get to work on time — or even get there at all.
3. Spending A Lot Of Money
There’s nothing wrong with going shopping, or treating yourself to something nice. But for many people, excessive spending can be a sign of a health concern.
For example, “spending large amounts of money often manifests in an individual whose experiencing a manic episode,” Jones says, which is an aspect of bipolar disorder.
“Often the individual spends money beyond [their] financial means,” she says, only to feel really guilty or hopeless about how much they spent, once they come down from this phase. If this has become an issue for you, it may be time to ask for help.
4. Feeling Irritated & Picking Fights
While it’s fine to have the occasional disagreement, acting in an excessively angry or cranky way, or picking little fights with others, isn’t a habit that should be overlooked.
“Anger and irritability, such as flying off the handle or constant grousing, can be signs of depression or bipolar disorder, particularly when they seem unprovoked and unusual for that person,” Weinstein says.
If these habits sound familiar, reaching out to a therapist may be a good next step, so you can figure out what’s going on.
5. Starting New Projects And/Or Businesses
This is another habit that’s common among people who have bipolar disorder. But unlike folks who are starting businesses because they’ve thought it through and are thinking clearly, someone with this disorder might go forth with no concern to the risks they’re taking on, Jones says.
When someone is manic, they might also talk rapidly or jump from topic to topic, Dr. Indra Cidambi, psychiatrist and addiction expert, tells Bustle. Or they’ll take on too many things at once. Oftentimes, manic episodes are followed by periods of depression, which is when these grandiose plans can fall apart.
While it’s always great to learn new things, start new projects, and get excited about business ideas, this habit could mean something isn’t quite right.
6. Developing New Mannerisms
“A shifting posture or gesture or even how we walk throughout our day can signal shifts in mood, which can often be a sign of mental health concerns or maybe even mental illness,” therapist Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT, tells Bustle.
It could, for example, point to a mood disorder, since movement can be a “reflection of our emotional state and mental health,” she says. Think along the lines of new mannerisms, and other habits that seem out of character.
7. Misplacing Things
Not being able to find belongings in a messy room, along with an inability to make decisions and forgetting things, can be a sign of depression, Weinstein says.
If this is a problem you’re struggling with, let a doctor know. They can help you figure out if it is, in fact, stemming from depression, and set you on the right course of treatment.
8. Staying Up All Night
“Sleeping either too little or too much can be a symptom of a mental disorder,” Dr. Witkin says. “Often times, anxiety disorders cause insomnia or restless sleep, while depression causes oversleeping and eventual fatigue.”
In general, it’s healthy to sleep about seven to nine hours a night. If this is something you struggle to do, you may want to look into reasons why, including possible mental health issues.
9. Worrying About The Day Ahead
While it’s common to feel a bit stressed or worried as you think about the day ahead, it might be a sign of anxiety if you worry to the point of distraction, avoid certain situations, or play out worst-case scenarios.
As Dr. Cidambi says, “Excessive worrying that is disproportionate to normal, everyday events is one important sign that one may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.”
10. Repeating Small Daily Rituals
“Normal rituals we might all partake in that are a way to mark a change of pace for the day — such as kissing a [partner] goodbye, or checking to make sure that we have our keys or phone — are normal, and can be helpful rituals,” licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Scott Hoye, PsyD, tells Bustle.
But for folks with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), these habits can take over. Instead of locking your front door once, for example, you might lock it ten times, or even drive back home to lock it again.
That’s because this disorder can cause you to doubt yourself, perform rituals over and over again, or experience magical thinking. So when a habit has turned into an obsession, Dr. Hoye says it may be a sign of a mental health concern.
11. Needing A Drink After Work
There’s nothing wrong with getting a drink after work, having wine with dinner, or hanging out at the bar. But if this habit has turned into something you need to do in order to relax, consider how it might be a way to mask symptoms of anxiety or depression, Dr. Hoye says.
It’s not uncommon for folks experiencing excessive worry, for example, to develop ways to relax, such as reaching for a drink. So if you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to let a doctor know.
It can be tough to spot these habits, and see them for what they are. But if you or someone else notices them, it doesn’t hurt to seek out the help.
By speaking with a therapist, you may realize that one of your habits was, in fact, a sign of a mental health concern. And in doing so, you’ll be starting the process of getting help and support, so you can get back to feeling better.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.`
Though loneliness has been a human issue forever, modern loneliness is endemic among both old and young in societies worldwide. The issue is so pervasive that the UK government launched a landmark scheme to tackle loneliness nationally in 2018. But if you think somebody you know might be lonely, knowing how to talk to themabout it can be tough. Being lonely is still seen as a taboo thing, and we often lack the right vocabulary to talk about it.
A third of people in the UK expressed loneliness in a survey in 2018, and in 2019, a survey in the U.S. revealed 47 percent of respondents experienced feelings of loneliness. It’s not confined to any age, either; millennials are lonelier than previous generations, according to a study in 2018. Studies show that loneliness may partially be caused by the isolation of relationships conducted via social media and the risk of burnout at work. Many of us are also experiencing the loneliness of cities; as humans live in ever-more crowded metropolises in the 21st century, we also become increasingly separate from others. “You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour [sic] to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people,” writes critic and artist Olivia Laing in The Lonely City.
If you notice somebody close to you appears to be feeling isolated, here’s how to have a conversation about it without making them angry, defensive, or feel more isolated.
1. Take It Slow
A conversation about somebody else’s loneliness, even if it’s somebody you’re really close to, can feel awkward and raise issues. “Be patient,” Age UK, an organization focused on the elderly (who are particularly vulnerable to loneliness), advises. “When people are lonely, particularly if it’s associated with poor mental health or physical health, they may get irritable or feel misunderstood by others. You may need to offer gentle assurance.” This is not a condemnation or an intervention; it’s an expression of concern, and it may take a few conversations before they’re willing to talk about how they’re feeling.
2. Use A Meal As An Opportunity To Talk
Using meals as a gateway to start this discussion is particularly recommended around major holidays, where lonely people can feel isolated and opportunities for food and shared meals are common. “Why not demonstrate that you’re thinking about someone by making them a delicious meal?” wrote Sabrina Barr for The Independent in 2018. This will not only build closeness into your relationship, it’ll also offer an opportunity to talk about their loneliness and what they need as you prepare food or share it together.
3. Speak From A Place Of Empathy
People who are lonely don’t just need to “buck up” or “get themselves out there.” Talking down to lonely people, particularly if they have challenges that mean they can’t socialize very much — an illness, a caretaker role, shyness or mobility issues — isn’t going to help. “The use of an infantilising [sic] voice is more often than not experienced as disrespectful and humiliating, and can bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says the UK’s Campaign To End Loneliness.
4. Include Them in Bigger Events
Invite your parent, sibling, or friend to come to a big social occasion that will prompt them to feel a little less isolated, and then see if you can have some one-on-one time; in the light of their recent social interactions at your party or get-together, they may feel more relaxed about talking about their loneliness in general. It’s a double whammy; it helps lonely people feel more connected to others, and also offers a venue to chat where they might feel a bit more cheerful.
5. Come From A No-Judgement Point Of View
Just as you wouldn’t offer judgment on a sick friend, you can help your loved one talk about loneliness without bringing up individual choices. “A warm, non-judgemental [sic] acceptance of the other person as whatever they are in that given moment during your helping relationship with them” is necessary when you’re dealing with their loneliness, the Campaign To End Loneliness says. “[Understand] that confronting painful feelings and changing their behaviour [sic] in some way can be a big step and a daunting challenge.” Focus on their feelings and how they’re choosing to express them, not your judgement of their situation.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About The Real Stuff
A survey of lonely American adults in 2018, TIME magazine reported, focused particularly on “meaningful relationships.” People who were lonely, the survey noted, had something in common: they said they had fewer people with whom they could “discuss matters of personal importance.” If you want to have a conversation with a lonely friend or family member, it may help to make time to hear about their life in general, and build meaning into your relationship.
Focus on being an empathetic listener. What are their day-to-day worries? What’s personally important to them? Creating or strengthening a meaningful relationship means you’ll have a better basis to talk about their loneliness, and they’ll be more likely to feel comfortable talking about it.
7. Let Them Guide The Conversation
You’re ready to have a big conversation about loneliness — but let your loved one take charge. “Facilitate a conversation about loneliness, using the skills and qualities of empathy, openness, warmth and respect, and help people to understand their own circumstances and plan their own solutions,” recommends the Campaign To End Loneliness. You might have an idea or a thousand about things they could do to improve their loneliness — join a club! Learn a new skill! — but, the Campaign says, it’s better to let them take agency over the conversation (and what results from it).
It’s also valuable not to make assumptions about what they want; young moms might not want to do lots of stuff to do with motherhood or children, for instance. “We try and remove limits and expectations about roles and interests,” says the Campaign.
Loneliness can be a hard thing to battle — but a friend or family member who really wants to help is a valuable asset. Take on the job diplomatically, and you might be able to make a real difference for a lonely person.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.
The Myth of the 8 Hour Workday
The most productive countries in the world do not work 8 hours per day. Actually, the most productive countries have the shortest workdays.
People in countries like Luxembourg are working approximately 30 hours per week (approximately 6 hours per day, 5 days per week) and making more money on average than people working longer workweeks.
This is the average person in those countries. But what about the super-productive?
Although Gary Vaynerchuck claims to work 20 hours per day, many “highly successful” people I know work between 3–6 hours per day.
It also depends on what you’re really trying to accomplish in your life. Gary Vaynerchuck wants to own the New York Jets. He’s also fine, apparently, not spending much time with his family.
And that’s completely fine. He’s clear on his priorities.
However, you must also be clear on yours. If you’re like most people, you probably want to make a great income, doing work you love, that also provides lots of flexibility in your schedule.
If that’s your goal, this post is for you.
However, you must also be clear on yours. If you’re like most people, you probably want to make a great income, doing work you love, that also provides lots of flexibility in your schedule.
If that’s your goal, this post is for you.
Quality Vs. Quantity
“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.” — Dan Sullivan
If you’re like most people, your workday is a blend of low-velocity work mixed with continual distraction (e.g., social media and email).
Most people’s “working time” is not done at peak performance levels. When most people are working, they do so in a relaxed fashion. Makes sense, they have plenty of time to get it done.
However, when you are results-oriented, rather than “being busy,” you’re 100 percent on when you’re working and 100 percent off when you’re not. Why do anything half-way? If you’re going to work, you’re going to work.
To get the best results in your fitness, research has found that shorter but more intensive exercise is more effective than longer drawn-out exercise.
The concept is simple: Intensive activity followed by high-quality rest and recovery.
Most of the growth actually comes during the recovery process. However, the only way to truly recover is by actually pushing yourself to exhaustion during the workout.
The same concept applies to work. The best work happens in short intensive spurts. By short, I’m talking 1–3 hours. But this must be “Deep Work,” with no distractions, just like an intensive workout is non-stop. Interestingly, your best work — which for most people is thinking — will actually happen while you’re away from your work, “recovering.”
For best results: Spend 20% of your energy on your work and 80% of your energy on recovery and self-improvement. When you’re getting high-quality recovery, you’re growing. When you’re continually honing your mental-model, the quality and impact of your work continually increase. This is what psychologists call, “Deliberate Practice.” It’s not about doing more, but better training. It’s about being strategic and results-focused, not busyness-focused.
In one study, only 16 percent of respondents reported getting creative insight while at work. Ideas generally came while the person was at home, in transportation, or during recreational activity. “The most creative ideas aren’t going to come while sitting in front of your monitor,” says Scott Birnbaum, a vice president of Samsung Semiconductor.
The reason for this is simple. When you’re working directly on a task, your mind is tightly focused on the problem at hand (i.e., direct reflection). Conversely, when you’re not working, your mind loosely wanders (i.e., indirect reflection).
While driving or doing some other form of recreation, the external stimuli in your environment (like the buildings or other landscapes around you) subconsciously prompt memories and other thoughts. Because your mind is wandering both contextually (on different subjects) and temporally between past, present, and future, your brain will make distant and distinct connections related to the problem you’re trying to solve (eureka!).
Creativity, after all, is making connections between different parts of the brain. Ideation and inspiration is a process you can perfect.
Case in point: when you’re working, be at work. When you’re not working, stop working. By taking your mind off work and actually recovering, you’ll get creative breakthroughs related to your work.
First Three Hours Will Make or Break You
According to psychologist Ron Friedman, the first three hours of your day are your most precious for maximized productivity.
“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well,” Friedman told Harvard Business Review.
This makes sense on several levels. Let’s start with sleep. Research confirms the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is most active and readily creative immediately following sleep. Your subconscious mind has been loosely mind-wandering while you slept, making contextual and temporal connections.
So, immediately following sleep, your mind is most readily active to do thoughtful work.
So, your brain is most attuned first thing in the morning, and so are your energy levels. Consequently, the best time to do your best work is during the first three hours of your day.
I used to exercise first thing in the morning. Not anymore. I’ve found that exercising first thing in the morning actually sucks my energy, leaving me with less than I started.
Lately, I’ve been waking up at 6AM, driving to my school and walking to the library I work in. While walking from my car to the library, I drink a 250 calorie plant-based protein shake (approximately 30 grams of protein).
Donald Layman, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois, recommends consuming at least 30 grams of protein for breakfast. Similarly, Tim Ferriss, in his book, The 4-Hour Body, also recommends 30 grams of protein 30 minutes after waking.
Protein-rich foods keep you full longer than other foods because they take longer to leave the stomach. Also, protein keeps blood-sugar levels steady, which prevent spikes in hunger.
I get to the library and all set-up by around 6:30 AM. I spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation, followed by a 5–10-minute session in my journal.
The purpose of this journal session is to get clarity and focus for my day. I write down my big picture goals and my objectives for that particular day. I then write down anything that comes to my mind. Often, it relates to people I need to contact or ideas related to a project I’m working on. I purposefully keep this journal session short and focused.
By 6:45, I’m set to work on whatever project I’m working on, whether that’s writing a book or an article, working on a research paper for my doctoral research, creating an online course, etc.
Starting work this early may seem crazy to you, but I’ve been shocked by how easy it is to work for 2–5 hours straight without distractions. My mind is laser at this time of day. And I don’t rely on any stimulants at all.
Between 11 AM-noon, my mind is ready for a break, so that’s when I do my workout. Research confirms that your workout is better with food in your system. Consequently, my workouts are now a lot more productive and powerful than they were when I was exercising immediately following sleep.
After the workout, which is a great mental break, you should be fine to work a few more hours, if needed.
If your 3–5 hours before your workout was focused, you could probably be done for the day.
Protect Your Mornings
I understand that this schedule will not work for everyone. There are single-parents with kids who simply can’t do something like this.
We all need to work within the constraints of our unique contexts. However, if you work best in the morning, you gotta find a way to make it happen. This may require waking up a few extra hours earlier than you’re used to and taking a nap during the afternoon.
Or, it may require you to simply focus hardcore the moment you get to work. A common strategy for this is known as the “90–90–1” rule, where you spend the first 90 minutes of your workday on your #1 priority. I’m certain this isn’t checking your email or social media.
Whatever your situation, protect your mornings!
I’m blown away by how many people schedule things like meetings in the mornings. Nothing could be worse for peak performance and creativity.
Schedule all of your meetings for the afternoon, after lunch.
Don’t check your social media or email until after your 3 hours of deep work. Your morning time should be spent on output, not input.
If you don’t protect your mornings, a million different things will take up your time. Other people will only respect you as much as you respect yourself.
Protecting your mornings means you are literally unreachable during certain hours. Only in case of serious emergency can you be summoned from your focus-cave.
What you do outside of work is just as significant for your work-productivity as what you do while you’re working.
A March 2016 study in the online issue of Neurology found that regular exercise can slow brain aging by as much as 10 years. Loads of other research has found that people who regularly exercise are more productive at work. Your brain is, after all, part of your body. If your body is healthier, it makes sense that your brain would operate better.
If you want to operate at your highest level, you need to take a holistic approach to life. You are a system. When you change a part of any system, you simultaneously change the whole. Improve one area of your life, all other areas improve in a virtuous cycle. This is the butterfly effect in action and the basis of the book, Start with Habit, which shows that by integrating one “keystone habit,” like exercise or reading, that the positivity of that one habits ripples into all other areas of your life, eventually transforming your whole life.
Consequently, the types of foods you eat, and when you eat them, determine your ability to focus at work. Your ability to sleep well (by the way, it’s easy to sleep well when you get up early and work hard) is also essential to peak performance. Rather than managing your time, then, you should really be focused on managing your energy. Your work schedule should be scheduled around when you work best, not around social norms and expectations.
A Very Simple Technique For Building Keystone Habits
You only need one keystone habit to start. If you create one, then you’ll have built the confidence to build several more. The reason is simple: how you do anything is often how you do everything.
If you can lock in one keystone habit — particularly something that is fundamental and important like food or money or time — then you’ll have gained sufficient confidence and control in your life.
This is actually what most people don’t understand about willpower. They think willpower is about self-control when willpower is actually a matter of confidence.
If you have low willpower, it’s because you have low confidence.
You create confidence by getting small wins, which ripple into bigger wins. The more confident you are, the less willpower you need to make good choices.
So how do you build a keystone habit quick?
One answer that psychologists have hit upon is called “implementation intentions” It’s extremely simple and easy to apply.
Basically, you create a planned response every time you’re either triggered or tempted to do something you don’t want to do.
For example, every time you get triggered to smoke a cigarette, you immediately call a friend. You can also have back-up plans if the friend doesn’t answer.
But the principle is simple: have an immediate response to a trigger so you don’t unconsciously react.
Your planned and immediate response takes willpower out of the equation because it takes the choice out of the equation. Willpower is all about choice, or in reality, the lack of having made a choice. Willpower is the byproduct of not knowing exactly what the outcome will be. For instance, when you get triggered to smoke or do any other negative behavior — if willpower is part of the equation, it is because you haven’t decided beforehand what you will do. You’re still undecided. Hence, 98% commitment is much harder than 100% commitment.
True decisions mean you have cut-off alternative options. The decision is the opposite of decision fatigue, and decision fatigue is the same thing as willpower. Thus, willpower is the absence of a decision, and leads to an emotional tug-of-war within yourself which generally ends in failure.
Part of the genius of implementation intentions is simply their ability to distract you from your trigger for long enough for the trigger to subside. In the brief 10–60 second window where you’re going through your pre-planned and healthy response to a trigger, your re-reminded of the decision you made and the goals you’re pursuing. The trigger and desire go away as you engage in healthy behavior and re-ignite your confidence.
I applied an implementation intention while at Disney World the other day. Instead of caving into the junk food all around me, I did a bunch of push-ups. Every time I wanted to eat snacks, I just did 10 pushups. By the end of the day, I’d done over 100.
Habit formation is about replacement more than simply removal. You can’t just create a void in your life. You need to fill it with something more congruent. Therefore, in order to build a successful implementation intention or pre-planned response— you need to establish an “if-then” response to whatever you’re trying to accomplish.
Pick the goal.
Whenever an obstacle appears, use your if-then response. Example:
Goal: Be as healthy as possible.
Obstacle: eating bad food.
If-then: if I’m tempted to eat unhealthy foods in an impulsive and non-planned manner, then I will immediately drink a big glass of water and do 20 jumping-jacks.
It doesn’t really matter what your pre-planned response is, so long as you consistently do it. By consistently following through, you’ll create small wins. Small wins build self-respect and confidence, thus lowering your need for willpower. Small wins and confidence solidify the decisions you’ve made, giving you increased inner-knowing that you absolutely will achieve your goal.
Another key reason that confidence lowers the need for willpower is that the more confident you get, the more you genuinely DESIRE better results. At the heart of willpower is not actually knowing what you want. Indeed, you may actually still desire eating bad food, for example. Thus, you’re at continually battling within yourself.
This is a horrible yet common way to live.
Most people do not know what they truly want. They don’t know how to make decisions. They haven’t learned how to build genuine confidence. Most people’s lives are a constant back-and-forth of indecision and lack of clarity. Yet, decision and clarity go hand-in-hand are not actually hard to build. They are skills.
You start with one simple one. And watch the ripples grow and success compound.
As you become more confident and mature as a person, your desires fundamentally change. You stop wanting stuff you used to want. You start wanting to succeed. You start loving yourself enough to win at life. You start seeing a much bigger picture for yourself. You realize increasingly more that you are the one painting the picture and actually have been the entire time.
Rather than being disappointed by your previous choices, you’re increasingly grateful for what your life is. You see increased vision and potential in everything around you.
Don’t Forget to Psychologically Detach and Play
One particular recovery strategy that is getting lots of attention in recent research is called “psychological detachment from work.” True psychological detachment occurs when you completely refrain from work-related activities and thoughts during non-work time.
Proper detachment/recovery from work is essential for physical and psychological health, in addition to engaged and productive work. Yet, few people do it. Most people are always “available” to their email and work. Millennials are the worst, often wearing the openness to work “whenever” as a badge of honor. It’s not a badge of honor.
Research has found that people who psychologically detach from work experience:
- Less work-related fatigue and procrastination
- Far greater engagement at work, which is defined as vigor, dedication, and absorption (i.e., “flow”)
- Greater work-life balance, which directly relates to the quality of life
- Greater marital satisfaction
- Greater mental health
When you’re at work, be fully absorbed. When it’s time to call it a day, completely detach yourself from work and become absorbed in the other areas of your life.
If you don’t detach, you’ll never fully be present or engaged at work or at home. You’ll be under constant strain, even if minimally. Your sleep will suffer. Your relationships will be shallow. Your life will not be happy.
Not only that, but lots of science has found play to be extremely important for productivity and creativity. Just like your body needs a reset, which you can get through fasting, you also need to reset from work in order to do your best work. Thus, you need to step away from work and dive into other beautiful areas of your life. For me, that’s goofing off with my kids.
Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has studied the “Play Histories” of over six thousand people and concludes playing can radically improve everything — from personal well-being to relationships to learning to an organization’s potential to innovate. As Greg McKeownexplains, “Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.”
In his TED talk, Brown said, “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity… Nothing fires up the brain like play.” There is a burgeoning body of literature highlighting the extensive cognitive and social benefits of play, including:
- Enhanced memory and focus
- Improved language learning skills
- Creative problem solving
- Improved mathematics skills
- Increased ability to self-regulate, an essential component of motivation and goal achievement
- Team work
- Conflict resolution
- Leadership skill development
- Control of impulses and aggressive behavior
Listen to Brain Music or Songs on Repeat
In her book, On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, psychologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis explains why listening to music on repeat improves focus. When you’re listening to a song on repeat, you tend to dissolve into the song, which blocks out mind wandering (let your mind wander while you’re away from work!).
Give it a try.
You can use this website to listen to YouTube videos on repeat.
I generally listen to classical music or electronic music (like video game type music). Here are a few that have worked for me:
Ready to Upgrade?
I’ve created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a PEAK-STATE, immediately. You follow this daily, your life will change very quickly.
As a cell biologist, Sundar Balasubramanian never forgot his rural southern Indian roots, or the traditional practices his uncle, the village healer, exposed him to. Today, as a researcher and assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, Balasubramanian has turned his focus back to those roots — specifically, to pranayama, a deep-breathing relaxation technique. He’s showing that this ancient yoga practice is about more than relaxing — it can change us at the cellular level.
Q: What made you examine this technique through a cellular biology lens?
A: In 2005, I noticed while I was practicing pranayama, I was producing so much saliva that I was almost drooling. I wondered why and what the overall impact of that was. This led me and my team to study whether increased saliva production was a common response to the practice, and we found that it was.
Q: Most people wouldn’t think much of getting spitty when they focus on breathing and relaxing. But your 2016 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed this bump in salivation seems to matter. Why?
A: Saliva has numerous antibodies and proteins that do everything from suppressing tumors to regenerating the liver. For example, it contains immunoglobulin, which are antibodies that bind to germs, as well as DMBT1, a tumor suppressor that blocks the conversion of normal cells to cancer cells.
Q: Your 2015 study in International Psychogeriatrics showed that pranayama does more than just increase salivation. Can you elaborate?
A: Yes, it changes the makeup of saliva by increasing the amount of nerve growth factor (NGF). When NGF is produced, it’s transported to the brain, where it signals nerve cells to grow or survive longer. Increased NGF could have a major impact on aging, and specifically on some of the degenerative diseases of the day like Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Q: Do you have any upcoming or ongoing research projects on pranayama?
A: We’re about to start a study on patients with scleroderma, a chronic disorder that causes the body’s connective tissue to swell and harden. We’ll look at how these breathing techniques impact inflammation and how this relates to disease symptoms. We’re also in the beginning phases of a study that will look at whether deep breathing can reduce pain, improve appetite and improve mood in cancer patients.
Look, I’m as skeptical as you are when a scientific study tells us something we really want to hear. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. Eggs will kill you, the delicious Bloomin’ Onion is literally the worst food for you on the planet, T-bone steaks will T-ank your blood pressure. That’s what I’m used to.
So it was with trepidation that I read about the wonderful, no, dare I say, transcendent, research findings on life longevity from the 90+ Study. The research findings were presented at the 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual conference by researchers Claudia Kawas and Maria Corrada from the University of California Irvine’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders.
The ongoing study, started 16 years ago, is intended to determine the factors of longevity including understanding what makes people live to age 90 and older and what types of food, activities, or lifestyles contribute to such long lives.
Participants in the study, referred to as “the oldest old” (which is what I feel like some days) are visited every six months by researchers who perform medical, physical, and cognitive tests and who gather dietary and lifestyle information.
Lo and behold, the research is finding that drinking wine (or other alcohol) and coffee in moderation leads to longer lifespans than for those who abstained. The key is, as with so many things in life, moderation.
Honestly, I don’t give a damn why the researchers came to this conclusion, they did, so just let me enjoy this.
Here’s why else this study is important and what else to do.
Let me instead ruminate on just how important this finding is, beyond the “finally, some good news from science” front. Anyone you talk to that enjoys wine and/or coffee will tell you it contributes to their happiness. And researchincreasingly supports that happiness leads to success, not the other way around. So the news of this study not only means that sipping a cup o’ joe and a glass o’ vino is good for life longevity, it will be a happier, more successful life at that.
But it would probably be irresponsible of me to suggest your life plan should stop at more Starbucks and Chardonnay. The study also touts the importance of more of what you’d expect, although even then, with a degree of surprise to it.
First, the more obvious. Life longevity is greatly enhanced by exercising 15 to 45 minutes each day, which reduces the risk of early death by 11 percent.
But this next one has a twist. The study also touts the importance of having hobbies so you can stay mentally sharp. In fact, spending two hours on a daily hobby reduces the risk of early death by a whopping 21 percent, almost twice that of exercising.
So in summary–the most important takeaways here are drink more wine, sip more coffee, and spend more time on your hobbies. At last, a prescription I can follow!
University of California professor Sonja Lyubomirsky details the things research shows the happiest people have in common.
Via The How of Happiness:
- They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
- They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
- They are often the first to offer helping hands to coworkers and passersby.
- They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
- They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
- They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
- They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values).
- Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.
I guess the blog post could end here. You’ve got your answer. But did you just want trivia? Or do you actually want to get happier?
The internet has become a firehose of ideas we never implement, tricks we forget to use.
Reading a list of things is easy. Implementing them in your life can be hard.
But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s get down to business.
Here’s an interesting fact about happiness: frequency beats intensity. What’s that mean?
Lots of little good things make you happier than a handful of big things.
Research shows that going to church and exercising both bring people a disproportionate amount of happiness. Why?
They give us frequent, regular boosts.
Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker says it’s really that simple: the things that make you happy, do them more often.
We have designated work hours. We schedule doctor appointments. Heck, we even schedule hair appointments.
We say happiness is the most important thing but fail to consistently include it in our calendars.
Research shows 40% of happiness is due to intentional activity. You can change your happiness by up to 40% by what you choose to do every day.
And much of what you do, you do on autopilot. 40% of what you do every day isn’t the result of decisions, it’s due to habits.
One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.
See where I’m going with this?
Happy things need to be a habit. Part of your routine. Part of your schedule.
Stop waiting for random happy events, you need a “happiness subscription.”
So how do we take that list and make them things we actually do every day instead of more forgotten trivia? Let’s get started.
1) Wake Up And Say ARG!
Even scientific happiness advice is often corny. I’ll say that now so we can get it off the table … But it works.
And this is why you might want to say ARG when you wake up. It’s an acronym that stands for:
Anticipation is a powerful happiness booster. It’s 2 for the price of 1: You get the good thing and you get happy in anticipation of the good thing.
So think about what you’re looking forward to. Got nothing you’re looking forward to? Schedule something.
Recollecting great moments has a related effect. Memories allow us to relive the good times and kill stress.
Via The How of Happiness:
People prone to joyful anticipation, skilled at obtaining pleasure from looking forward and imagining future happy events, are especially likely to be optimistic and to experience intense emotions. In contrast, those proficient at reminiscing about the past—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress.
… the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.
And the combo often leads to optimism. Another powerful predictor of happiness.
So, corny as it may be, wake up and say ARG! And then do a quick bit of anticipation, recollection and gratitude.
(For more on optimism click here.)
All that’s fine and dandy. But what do you do once you’re out of bed?
2) Savor Your Morning Coffee
Take a moment and really enjoy it. Smell it. Taste it. Appreciate it. Corny? Maybe.
But other research shows savoring — appreciating the good moments — is what separates the happiest people from the average Joe.
I imagine some of you are saying, “Well, I don’t drink coffee.” And please imagine me saying, “That’s not the point.”
It can be anything you do every morning.
And embedding savoring in our little daily rituals is powerful because studies show rituals matter.
Here’s Harvard professor Francesca Gino:
You can think about rituals that you yourself might engage in prior to consumption experiences. What they do, they make us a little bit more mindful about the consumption experience that we are about to have. Because of that, we end up savoring the food or whatever we are drinking more, we enjoy the experience more, and in fact, we’re also more willing to pay higher prices for whatever it is that we just consumed. Once again, rituals are beneficial in the sense that they create higher levels of enjoyment in the experience that we just had.
(For more on how savoring can make you happier click here.)
So what other habit can we build into our schedule that boosts joy? How about one that can make you as happy as sex does?
3) Sweat Your Way To Joy
When you study people to see what makes them happiest you get three answers: sex, socializing and exercise.
Their findings confirm what had been found previously: happiness is high during sex, exercise, or socializing, or while the mind is focused on the here and now, and low during commuting or while the mind is wandering.
People who exercise are, across the board, mentally healthier: less depression, anger, stress, and distrust.
A massive Dutch study of 19,288 twins and their families published in 2006 showed that exercisers are less anxious, less depressed, less neurotic, and also more socially outgoing. A Finnish study of 3,403 people in 1999 showed that those who exercise at least two to three times a week experience significantly less depression, anger, stress, and “cynical distrust” than those who exercise less or not at all.
Don’t like exercise? Then you’re doing the wrong kind.
Running, lifting weights, playing any sport… Find something you enjoy that gets you moving.
(For more on how sweating can increase smiling — and make you smarter too — click here.)
Okay, time to head to work. What’s the best thing to do when you start the day? It’s not about you — but it will make you happier.
4) The Five Minute Favor
Who lives to a ripe old age? Not those who get the most help, ironically it’s those who give the most help.
We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest. Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.
And a great way to do that without taking up too much time is Adam Rifkin’s “5 Minute Favor”:
Every day, do something selfless for someone else that takes under five minutes. The essence of this thing you do should be that it makes a big difference to the person receiving the gift. Usually these favors take the form of an introduction, reference, feedback, or broadcast on social media.
So take five minutes to do something that is minor for you but would provide a big benefit to someone else.
It’s good karma — and science shows that, in some ways, karma is quite real.
Yes, some who do a lot for others get taken advantage of. But as Adam Grant of Wharton has shown, givers also succeed more:
Then I looked at the other end of the spectrum and said if Givers are at the bottom, who’s at the top? Actually, I was really surprised to discover, it’s the Givers again. The people who consistently are looking for ways to help others are over-represented not only at the bottom, but also at the top of most success metrics.
(For more on the best way to get happier by being a giver, click here.)
Alright, you have to start work for the day. Ugh. But there are ways that work can make you happier too.
5) Life Is A Game, And So Is Work
Like the research shows, the happiest people have goals.
In his studies, the psychologist Jonathan Freedman claimed that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves—both short-term and long-term—are happier. The University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that working hard toward a goal and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized don’t just activate positive feelings—they also suppress negative emotions such as fear and depression.
Many of us feel like work can be boring or annoying but the research shows many of us are actually happier at work than at home. Why?
Challenges. And we reach that state of “flow” only when a challenge presents itself. So how can work make us happier?
Three research-backed things to try:
- To the degree you can, do things you’re good at. We’re happier when we exercise our strengths.
- Make note of your progress. Nothing is more motivating than progress.
- Make sure to see the results of your work. This gives meaning to most any activity.
(For more on getting happier by setting goals click here.)
Enough work. You’ve got some free time. But what’s the happiest way to use your free time?
6) Friends Get Appointments Too
You have mandatory meetings in your schedule but not mandatory time with friends? Absurd.
One study says that as much as 70% of happiness comes from your relationships with other people.
Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996
Why does church make people so happy? Studies show it has nothing to do with religion — it’s about the socializing. It’s scheduled friend time.
After examining studies of more than three thousand adults, Chaeyoon Lin and Robert Putnam found that what religion you practice or however close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. What matters is the number of friends you have in your religious community. Ten is the magic number; if you have that many, you’ll be happier. Religious people, in other words, are happier because they feel connected to a community of like-minded people.
And if you have the cash, pay for dinner with a friend. Money definitely can make you happier — when you spend it on other people.
By the end of the day, individuals who spent money on others were measurably happier than those who spent money on themselves — even though there were no differences between the groups at the beginning of the day. And it turns out that the amount of money people found in their envelopes — $5 or $20 — had no effect on their happiness at the end of the day. How people spent the money mattered much more than how much of it they got.
(For more on how to have happy friendships click here.)
What’s the final thing happy people have in common? They cope with adversity. So what should we do when life gets tough?
7) Find Meaning In Hard Times
Research shows that a happy life and a meaningful life are not necessarily the same thing.
It’s hard to be happy when tragedy strikes. But who lives longer and fares better after problems? Those who find benefit in their struggles.
Via The How of Happiness:
For example, in one study researchers interviewed men who had had heart attacks between the ages of thirty and sixty. Those who perceived benefits in the event seven weeks after it happened—for example, believing that they had grown and matured as a result, or revalued home life, or resolved to create less hectic schedules for themselves—were less likely to have recurrences and more likely to be healthy eight years later. In contrast, those who blamed their heart attacks on other people or on their own emotions (e.g., having been too stressed) were now in poorer health.
In many cases, Nietzsche was right: what does not kill us can make us stronger.
A substantial number of people also show intense depression and anxiety after extreme adversity, often to the level of PTSD, but then they grow. In the long run, they arrive at a higher level of psychological functioning than before… In a month, 1,700 people reported at least one of these awful events, and they took our well-being tests as well. To our surprise, individuals who’d experienced one awful event had more intense strengths (and therefore higher well-being) than individuals who had none. Individuals who’d been through two awful events were stronger than individuals who had one, and individuals who had three— raped, tortured, and held captive for example— were stronger than those who had two.
So when you face adversity, always ask what you can learn from it.
(For more on how to make your life more meaningful — without terrible tragedy — click here.)
See that? I took the eight things happy people do and squeezed them into just seven habits. You can thank me later.
Now how do we tie all of these happiness boosters together?
If you want every day to be happier try including these seven things in your schedule:
- Wake Up And Say ARG!
- Savor Your Morning Coffee
- Sweat Your Way To Joy
- Do A Five Minute Favor
- Make Work A Game
- Friends Get Appointments Too
- Find Meaning In Hard Times
We’re all quick to say happiness is the most important thing … and then we schedule everything but the things that make us happiest. Huh?
So what’s going to make you happy today? Have you thought about it? Is it on your calendar?
Reading happiness information is useless trivia unless you use it and you won’t use it unless it’s part of your routine.
If happiness is the most important thing then make it the most important thing.
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That’s an awful lot of people, but I never expected to become one of them. I have always been known for my sunny, cheerful nature and natural ease in social situations. Neither was I an anxious person. How could someone like me become so anxious and depressed I actually contemplated taking my own life? The truth is I don’t know the answer. On paper, there’s nothing in my life that could make me feel this bad. I have a good marriage, a job I love and am financially secure. I have a decent group of friends and time to indulge in my hobbies. But some of the resources online that talk about depression are less than helpful.
“Focus on the positives,” they say. “Think of all the good things in your life.”
But that doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel worse because if I concentrate on the good things in my life, I feel selfish and overprivileged. Other people have far worse problems than I do. The truth is depression is common and is not always situational (e.g. a response to trauma or a bereavement). And the thing about depression is it lies to you, tells you you’re worthless and a burden and it’s not easy to ignore its insidious voice.
So after months of trying medication after medication, I was getting progressively worse to the point where I had completely lost hope. The crushing feeling of despair that things were never going to get better was overwhelming, and what had been fleeting thoughts of suicide suddenly crystallized into a plan. I even had the music I wanted to play. It was a stupid and dangerous plan, one that could have inadvertently hurt other people and it was that thought that stopped me. I had no desire for anyone to be hurt because of me. Instead, I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline3 (1-800-273-8255, or text the 2-letter abbreviation for your state to 741741).
I was in my car in a parking lot and they told me to stay where I was until the crisis team found me. The police showed up and asked me a few questions before taking me off to a crisis center for evaluation. At the crisis center, I was handcuffed to be taken inside. My shame and humiliation, already at a high level, increased dramatically.
Inside the crisis center, it was a chaotic scene. Most of the people there were either drunk or high. The staff were nice but seemed harried and overstretched. Eventually, I was assessed and referred to a local hospital for inpatient treatment. The whole thing took hours and I got no sleep that night. The next day I was distressed and scared and nobody was telling me what was happening. My husband was desperately trying to get in contact with me but they had my cellphone and nobody would tell him anything or let him see me. I understand why, but it was very difficult for him.
Despite the rough beginning, it was exactly what I needed. Enclosed in this cocoon where the outside world could not penetrate, I could concentrate on myself for a while. I spent about a week in the hospital, and now I am out again, I’m looking at the world with new eyes.
Maybe you’d argue I’m oversensitive, but every time someone uses suicide hyperbolically in casual conversation, it hurts me. My throat clogs and my eyes burn. Because now I understand what it means to truly want to die.
If someone you know (or a celebrity) dies by suicide:
Don’t say you never expected it. The truth is, you have no idea. Some people, like me, are very good at faking it.
Don’t tell a suicidal person they have so much to live for. It’s not as helpful as you might think.
Don’t call suicide selfish. I used to think this but that’s because I didn’t understand. A depressed person often believes their death would be beneficial to the people in their life because they feel like a burden.
If someone in your life has depression:
Be supportive. That means being understanding if they don’t want to socialize, or aren’t feeling chatty. Be willing to listen if they want to talk, but don’t ask them how they’re feeling every 5 minutes.
Encourage them to seek help. There are resources out there, although they’re terribly overstretched. Reference 3 can help you find local resources.
Things have gotten better for me. My psychiatrist has added another medication, I’m going to start attending group therapy as well as my weekly individual therapy sessions and I’m going to try transcranial magnetic stimulation4. The new medication is already helping, and I’m investing in some wellness measures as well. I’m grateful to everyone who has been helping me. It’s still a daily battle and I’m a long way from winning this war, but now at least, I have hope.
Relationships, like all things, change with time. And while there are many beautiful things about a long-term commitment to someone, keeping the spark alive can sometimes be challenging. After all, when you settle into a routine together, it’s not quite so simple to shake things up and retain that element of surprise. Don’t fret, though — there are plenty of ways to make your relationship more romantic, as long as you’re both creative and resourceful.
I checked in with the experts to get their thoughts on this, and their advice did not disappoint. “Our partner needs to know that we value them and that they have a vital role in our life,” says Susan Winter, relationship expert. “From this foundation of appreciation and gratitude, romantic feelings grow with abundance.” If you want to show your partner how much you care, one of the best things you can do is add some intrigue back into your lives. There’s something about a passionate, romantic evening together that electrifies your chemistry and reminds you why you chose one another. And it doesn’t have to be any huge gesture — even small changes can make a big difference! When you’re ready to get more intimate with bae, put these tips to use and watch your bond deepen in a beautiful way.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE SMALL THINGS
“We tend to underestimate the impact of phrases such as, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘I really appreciate what you’ve done for me,'” Winter says. When your SO does something you’re grateful for, like buying you flowers or cleaning your room, let them know. After couples have been together for an extended period, it’s easy to forget to thank one another for small daily actions. But according to Winter, “kindness and appreciation are powerful aphrodisiacs.” You don’t have to make huge changes in your routine to make each other feel special — just express your love in little ways!
2. RECREATE YOUR FIRST DATE
When you’re in a rut and your time together starts to feel monotonous, bring back a special memory you both share. “Break that cycle by randomly recreating your first date at home,” says Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist. “Candles, rose petals, dinner, movie, anything that can recreate that first date.” Or, try reminiscing in the actual place you first went out together! Think back to that time when you were first getting to know one another, and when everything felt exciting and scary and new. You’ll both be able to look back with fondness and also to see how far your relationship has come.
3. GO ON A TRIP TOGETHER
If you’re both craving a weekend out of town, consider taking a vacation — maybe even a couple’s retreat. “Not only will you learn new skills for enhancing communication, managing conflict, a renewed sense of commitment to one another, and deepening intimacy. But you also have a built-in vacation filled with romantic settings, dinners, and relaxation,” Silva explains. Sometimes, getting out of your shared space and into a new location can help you feel rejuvenated and more in love.
4. SIGN UP TO HELP A CAUSE YOU BOTH CARE ABOUT
Shula Melamed, relationship and well-being coach, says that couples who try new activities together end up happier in the long run. “Maybe sign up for a course or cause that requires that the two of you to learn, create, or show up for something you both can be passionate about,” she suggests. If you have a shared love for something, it’ll bring you closer together, and it also gives you something fresh to talk about. Doing good for the world and doing good for your relationship? It’s a win-win.
5. COMMIT TO HAVING FUN TOGETHER
No matter what you do, the most important thing is that you’re enjoying each other’s company. “Couples who play and explore with each other report higher relationship satisfaction,” Melamed says. “So the ‘work’ that goes into maintaining long-term committed relationships might be more depended on ‘play.’” The human brain responds positively to new experiences, so the more creative you can be, the more fun you’ll have together. Try to make a habit of trying something new together at least once per month! This helps you build a bank of shared memories together that will keep the romance alive.
Try to remember that even on days when you feel bored or out of touch with each other, you both chose this relationship for a reason. When you can reframe your brain to remind yourself, “I choose you,” you’ll be more thankful for your partner and more confident in your love. And at the end of the day, a box of chocolates and bouquet of roses never hurt anyone… so get cheesy with it and have a little fun.
Those who own dogs are also happier than those who don’t, showing that dogs really do bring great joy to their owners’ lives. With over half of pet owners falling in love with their dogs in just 30 minutes, it’s no surprise that those with dogs are happier than those without pets.
Why are dog owners happier?
The study concluded that:
• Dog owners are more likely to form friendships with people in their neighbourhoods, especially when they’re out walking their pets.
• Dog owners are more likely to engage in outdoor physical activity.
• Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neuroticthan cat owners
• Dog owners are more likely to seek comfort from their pets in times of stress.
• 93% are also more likely to call their dog a member of the family, compared to just 83% of cat owners
• It also shows that a greater bond with their dog means they have a greater sense of well-being.
Elsewhere, a 2013 study showed that dog owners are also far more likely to engage in outdoor activities than those who own cats.
Dogs not only bring great happiness to their owners, but also help them to keep an active lifestyle. It’s just another reason to adopt a pup of your own today.
Radley London’s new collection is a dog-lover’s dream
Instead of saying I will be Happy when… Say, I am happy because… My Declaration: I am happy because I have life. I am happy because I get to share some inspiration with you that I hope will make a difference in your life. I am happy because I choose to be. Now its your…
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There’s little doubt that language — the words we use and how we use them — has a profound influence on culture. Over time, some words even burrow so deeply into our collective mindset that they change the way we think.
As Antonio Benítez-Burraco writes in Psychology Today, “Languages do not limit our ability to perceive the world or to think about the world, but they focus our perception, attention, and thought on specific aspects of the world.”
Different words spoken in different languages don’t just dress the same concept. They shape and often redefine that concept — imparting meaning as much as they describe it.
When it comes to language, we’ve got a lot wrapped up in the wrapping, particularly when it comes to very sensitive concepts like the taking of one’s own life.
To describe that act, we’re still using the term “committed suicide.”
And while the words may sound cold and clinical, they are, in fact, anything but sterile.
They’re loaded with meaning — in the worst possible way. Think about things that are “committed”: fraud, adultery, murder, sin.
In our society, when something is committed, that something by default is a bad thing. (When was the last time you heard about two people falling in love and “committing marriage?”)
Suicide, while inarguably a bad thing, is a lot more complex than tax evasion. It’s more like life evasion. Or at least, the need to escape from overwhelming stress and trauma. It’s often inextricably entwined with mental health.
So why heap more scorn on people battling those devastating issues? Why frame suicide as an immoral act?
“The term ‘committed suicide’ is damaging because for many, if not most, people it evokes associations with ‘committed a crime’ or ‘committed a sin’ and makes us think about something morally reprehensible or illegal,” Jacek Debiec, a professor at the University of Michigan’s department of psychiatry, tells the Huffington Post.
There are alternatives. Mental health professional suggest skirting the stigma-fraught word “committed” entirely. Some lean towards the term “completed suicide,” although that seems to introduce another wholly unwelcome meaning.
“Think of the sense of accomplishment you feel when you complete a big project. Then think of the disappointment you feel when you don’t,” writes University of Denver professor Stacey Freedenthal.
“Completion is good, and suicide isn’t.”
Indeed, that may swing the pendulum too hard in the destigmatizing direction. Freedenthal, like many mental health experts, suggests simply getting rid of the troublesome “committed” and simply saying “killed by suicide.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it? And yet, we’re still largely stuck on that victim-blaming classic: committed suicide.
The irony here? We all agree that mental health is something that improves when we talk about it. But the acme of mental distress — suicide — is so steeped in immorality and even criminality, who dares talk about it?
And maybe that’s why the suicide rate is surging. It’s the affliction that dare not speak its name — even as we need to talk about it now, more than ever. In the U.S., suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2016, claiming some 45,000 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More alarmingly, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.
But suicide may also be the only major disease that’s entirely preventable. Communication can be a powerful vaccine.
“Suicide is not a sin and is no longer a crime, so we should stop saying that people ‘commit’ suicide,” concluded researcher Susan Beaton in a 2013 paper. “We now live in a time when we seek to understand people who experience suicidal ideation, behaviours and attempts, and to treat them with compassion rather than condemn them.”
So maybe it’s time we stopped stigmatizing the act, and, by doing so, encouraged the kinds of conversations that save lives.
No one is perpetrating a crime here. The only crime, in fact, is that we’re still using language to cast it as one.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of self harm or suicide, there is help. For a list of phone numbers and resources across the U.S., visit the U.S. National Suicide & Crisis Hotlines webpage.
This article originally appeared on Tonic in the US.
I never realized how little I knew about depression until I became depressed. I didn’t know, for instance, how depression can snatch away your sex drive, leaving you feeling newly—and involuntarily—asexual. I didn’t know that depression attacks your attention span, your energy, and your ability to finish things. During a recent bout, I had trouble finishing magazine articles and movies. The number of emails I sent plummeted. Everyday errands felt like Herculean tasks.
But perhaps most surprising was the emotional numbness. Nothing about hearing the word “depression” prepares you for having a moment of eye contact with your two-year-old niece that you know ought to melt my heart—but it doesn’t. Or for sitting at a funeral for a friend, surrounded by sobs and sniffles, and wondering, with a mix of guilt and alarm, why you’re not feeling more.
During my recent depression spell, I experienced this kind of numbness for weeks. Political news that would have previously enraged me left me cold. Music had little effect beyond stirring memories of how it used to make me feel. Jokes were unfunny. Books were uninteresting. Food was unappetizing. I felt, as Phillip Lopate wrote in his uncannily accurate poem “Numbness,” “precisely nothing.”
And this was new to me. Because while I had been in and out of depression before, I still, like many people, didn’t fully grasp an illness that affected 16 million Americans in 2015. (That’s more than the combined populations of New York City, LA, and Chicago.) “It’s ubiquitous,” the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, Andrew Solomon, tells me. “[And yet] I think the public doesn’t really understand it well at all.”
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says, for a person to be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, they need to experience “Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day” or “markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day” for a period of two weeks. But this is just the baseline. For a diagnosis to be made, the person must also report at least four additional symptoms from a list that includes significant weight loss or weight gain, an inability to sleep or excessive sleepiness, physical restlessness or slowness (“psychomotor agitation or retardation,” in clinical terms), frequent fatigue or energy loss, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, indecision or a diminished ability to concentrate, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
“It’s truly amazing to me, the longer I’ve been in the field, how many manifestations of depression there can be in the body,” says Jennifer Payne, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. These can range from headaches to GI issues to various pain syndromes, and depression can also exacerbate existing conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure. “If you take two women with the same breast cancer, one’s depressed [and] one’s not, the woman who’s depressed has twice the chance of dying from her breast cancer,” Payne says.
During my conversations with Payne and other medical experts, I began to understand just how vast and multifaceted this illness can be. Depression can be visible or invisible to a person’s loved ones. It can last for weeks, years, or even decades. It can affect sleep, concentration, appetite, energy, memory, movement, and—as I know well from trying to write while depressed —a person’s facility with language.
A particularly scary aspect is the fact that hopelessness and helplessness are actually symptoms of the illness. Stanford University’s David Spiegel, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the school’s Center on Stress and Health, tells me that depression is a common, treatable mental disorder, but people it afflicts can blame themselves for things that aren’t their fault. “And so depressed people often feel guilty about being depressed and not performing the way they should,” he says. “And that’s part of the disease…[that] keeps them from digging their way out, or getting help from people to dig their way out.”
And the causes of the illness can be as varied as the symptoms. Emory University’s Nadine Kaslow, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, tells me that, with some people, depression is more genetically driven, while others experience it as reaction to external stress. She runs off a long list of the circumstances that can trigger depression: loss of a loved one, job, or key identity; things that cause feelings of failure, shame, or humiliation; a natural disaster that overturns your life, like the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico; financial woes and anxiety; child abuse; domestic violence.
We also know that depression can be devilishly impervious to happy events. Readers of William Styron’s Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, may remember how he describes receiving a prestigious literary prize in Paris, a check for $25,000, and royal treatment from his hosts, all while feeling what he describes as “panic…dislocation, and a sense that my thought processes were being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world.”
The more I dug into my reporting, it also became clear how many things depression is not. It is not the fault of the person afflicted, nor is it necessarily in their control to “snap out of it” or “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” (These two points really can’t be stressed enough.) And it certainly is not merely feeling sad. “People who have never experienced depression think, ‘Well, I pulled myself together after a rough time,’ and they don’t understand the intense physicality, the immediacy, and the incontrovertibility of the condition,” Solomon says. It’s tempting to envision depression as an extreme point on a mood spectrum, he adds, but it’s really the mood spectrum shutting down altogether. The word he used frequently in our conversation was a feeling of “nullity.” And in his TED talkon depression, he repeats the sentence, “The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”
The British author Matt Haig recently tweeted, “Everyone is comfortable so long as you talk about mental illness in the past tense.” And I admit, it’s easier for me to write this piece after my recent bout of depression passed. When I share it with people I know, I can truthfully say, “I feel much better now,” and spare us both a less comfortable conversation. But being outside of a depressive spell (at least for now; I have little doubt I’ll return at some point) also allows me an interesting journalistic perspective.
One point worth making—and I say this as a mostly non-religious person—is that emotions are a sacred, miraculous thing. You realize this when you lose them. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so happy to feel angry as the recent day when, after reading about some recent political horror, I felt my first stirrings of moral outrage in months. I was offended again—and it was beautiful. Other revelatory moments followed, like household appliances flickering back on after a power outage: the return of that almost-crying lump in my throat during emotional movies, or the burst of spontaneous laughter when I heard a joke. A few weeks ago, I drove home after an errand and stayed in my car for a minute just to soak in the old-but-new joy I from a song I had recently discovered.
But even as I exit my latest depressive spell, I remain mindful of the people who are still there. I know what it means to smile for a photo and feel like you’re lying. I know what it means to feel a vague sense of sadness over not feeling sadness. I know what it means to comb the Internet for a video, an article, a book, that explains what’s going on inside your seemingly broken brain. To know depression is to become familiar with one of its paradoxes: the feeling that you’re missing out on the full human experience is, in fact, a large part of the human experience.
This is where friends and family can help. Odds are that you know someone who has been, or will be, depressed at some point. And so being a vigilant friend and family member means keeping an eye out for the person who’s less and less socially active. Stay aware of the co-worker for whom it appears, as one expert told me, “like the light in their eyes is gone.” Check in with them. Call them. Visit with them.
The brain is a complex and crucial organ that represents humans’ major evolutionary advantage over other animals, Spiegel tells me. And sometimes it has problems working. When this happens, it’s not a judgment on the person affected, he says. “It’s a problem that sometimes comes up when you’re dealing with using a complex organ to deal with complex problems in life.”
It’s easy to fix a bike or a car when they break, he continues, but your brain is complicated. “So get help with it if it’s not working right.”
It’s no surprise that workplace wellness is one of the sectors predicted to see the strongest future growth by the Global Wellness Institute. Given the number of hours spent at work during a lifetime—feeling good at work matters, and, it also has a flow-on effect to other areas of your life.
A CBI report late last year showed that “1.3 million people suffered from new or longstanding work-related illnesses” in the previous year and “up to 5 million workers are thought to suffer from a mental health condition each year”.
So, what’s missing to get people feeling good?
Aletheia Hunn, Founder, and Director of Founded Wellness believes that it’s all about having a greater understanding of the connection between your body and your mind. Nobody is exempt from well-being. It comes from an ability to be aware of what’s happening in a holistic way, in order to know how to navigate yourself back to balance.
Having started her wellness business two and a half years ago, she says she’s been wearing many different hats and has at times spread herself thin. However, it’s been the permission to take time out and the awareness of the ‘intelligence of her body’ she now has that allows her to keep coming back to center much quicker.
Staying stuck in a heightened stress cycle for too long leads to things like chronic anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and a suppressed your immune system. So having the awareness and tools to ‘come back to center’ quickly is critical to your long-term health and well-being—it’s not just about feeling good at the office.
Aletheia says that many people either don’t have access to that kind of ‘time out’ in their workplace, or rather, the idea of stopping in the first place just feels too challenging and uncomfortable, so it doesn’t happen. She says there needs to be more of a meeting in the middle for both employers and employees to “create a bit more lightness”.
Her own experience of wellness, particularly her yoga training, was born out of a desire to simply ‘feel better’ in her personal and professional life. At a time where she was in that “classic, slightly stressed London life”, she said her physical activity was much more ‘mindless’ and focused on driving the next ‘personal best’. Which meant both her body and her mind were constantly active.
Aletheia suggests that when we’re stressed or feeling the day to day pressures we’ve lost that sense of connection with our bodies (and minds). Bringing about balance is about understanding what it is you need most in those moments. Too often we keep pushing on, instead of acknowledging how we’re feeling. She believes there’s so much intelligence in our bodies to support us back to balance but we’re not giving ourselves permission to take notice.
Practices like yoga and meditation help to regulate those emotional responses in the body. And there are numerous studies showing the negative impacts on physical health when you don’t regulate, and instead, stay in heightened states of stress for too long.