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Understanding Bulimia What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Bulimia’? Perhaps you think it’s the same as Anorexia. Maybe to you, it’s a problem ‘skinny people’ have, a self-indulgent fad that people overcome when they enter adulthood. Maybe the word Bulimia means nothing to you, after all you’ve never struggled with not eating. In fact, […]
Count Your ‘Lessings’ You’re exhausted from listening to the news describing, in ever greater detail, the latest horror in the world. Yes, you know that if it bleeds, it leads. But still, an unending supply of tragedy and disaster leaves you with a wish to be anesthetized. You’re … ...
We're Too Optimistic About The Power Of Optimism So say the results of a new study out of UC Berkeley, anyway. Three different experiments show we resort to optimism when we believe it can improve our chances of success, but are too hopeful about its actual benefits. Optimism is still important, say the researchers, but we should also focus on knowledge and approach. ...
Study shows babies born with drug withdrawal symptoms on the rise The number of infants born in the United States with drug withdrawal symptoms, also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), nearly doubled in a four-year period. By 2012, one infant was born every 25 minutes in the U.S. with the syndrome, accounting for $1.5 billion in annual health care charges, according to a new Vanderbilt [...] The post Study shows babies born with drug withdrawal symptoms on the rise appeared first on PsyPost.
Souped-up remote control switches behaviors on-and-off in mice Neuroscientists have perfected a chemical-genetic remote control for brain circuitry and behavior. This evolving technology can now sequentially switch the same neurons – and the behaviors they mediate – on-and-off in mice, say researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health. Such bidirectional control is pivotal for decoding the brain workings of complex behaviors. The [...] The post Souped-up remote control switches behaviors on-and-off in mice appeared first on PsyPost.
Impaired sleep linked to lower pain tolerance People with insomnia and other sleep problems have increased sensitivity to pain, reports a study published in PAIN®, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer. The effect on pain tolerance appears strongest in people who suffer from both insomnia and chronic pain, who [...] The post Impaired sleep linked to lower pain tolerance appeared first on PsyPost.
Light — not pain-killing drugs — used to activate brain’s opioid receptors Despite the abuse potential of opioid drugs, they have long been the best option for patients suffering from severe pain. The drugs interact with receptors on brain cells to tamp down the body’s pain response. But now, neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a way to activate opioid receptors [...] The post Light — not pain-killing drugs — used to activate brain’s opioid receptors appeared first on PsyPost.
Short-term debt and depressive symptoms may go hand-in-hand Results to be published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues suggest that having short-term household debt — credit cards and overdue bills — increases depressive symptoms. The association is particularly strong among unmarried people, people reaching retirement age and those who are less well educated, according to a new study by lead author [...] The post Short-term debt and depressive symptoms may go hand-in-hand appeared first on PsyPost.
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When You’re Super Tired With No Vacation in Sight Lately, I’ve been tired. Really tired. Long to-do lists. Lots of writing. Lots of worries. There are no catastrophes or terrible concerns. My brain simply feels stalled from too much … ...
Brain scan reveals out-of-body illusion Neuroscientists have created an out-of-body illusion in participants placed inside a brain scanner. They then used the illusion to perceptually 'teleport' the participants to different locations in a room and show that the perceived location of the bodily self can be decoded from activity patterns in specific brain regions.
Light -- not pain-killing drugs -- used to activate brain's opioid receptors Neuroscientists have attached the light-sensing protein rhodopsin to opioid receptor parts to activate the receptor pathways using light from a laser fiber-optic device. They also influenced the behavior of mice using light, rather than drugs, to activate the reward response. When an opioid receptor is exposed to a pain-killing drug, it initiates activity in specific chemical pathways in the brain and spinal cord. And when the researchers shone light on the receptors that contained rhodopsin, the same cellular pathways were activated. Neurons in that part of the brain release chemicals such as dopamine that create feelings of euphoria.
Eight Ways to Achieve More While Working Less I spend about five hours a day slacking off. Really: I spend that much time doing stuff I enjoy, that isn’t on a task list anywhere. I walk through the beautiful university campus near my house—during the workday. I cook for pleasure. I lay around on my daughter’s bed reading while she does her homework. You’re probably thinking, “I could never do that!! Because I have to [insert 500 good reasons]!” Maybe you now believe that I am lazier and more pampered than you previously imagined. Here’s the truth: I slack off not because I’m lazy or don’t care about being productive. In fact, I’ve found that slacking off makes me more productive because I slack strategically—meaning that I take breaks at designated times, for regular intervals, in ways that sharpen my focus when I sit back down to work. Strategic slacking has enabled me to dramatically increase both the quality of my work and the amount I get done in a given day. It increases productivity because we don’t think or work or create at the same rate throughout the day. How fast we work doesn’t just depend on the difficulty of what we are working on; it also depends on how well our brain is functioning. Is it well-nourished? Free from stress? Rested and ready to go? To a large extent, how we answer those questions is within our control. Here are eight ways to achieve more while working less. 1. Designate time for “THINK WORK.” Late morning is an excellent time for most people to tackle their most difficult work, as alertness tends to be high and willpower is not yet depleted. I do work that takes a lot of focus at a standing desk that has a small treadmill under it, on a computer that doesn’t have an email application. Walking slowly while I work has a lot of positive outcomes; one of them is that it more or less chains me to my desk. I put my phone in do-not-disturb mode and close any unnecessary applications or windows that are open on my computer. I put on my noise-canceling headphones and play my “listen while writing” playlist. 2. Take “recess” throughout the day. One survey discovered that very productive employees tend to take 17 minutes of break time for every 52 minutes of work. Feel free to do something fun during your break, like watch a funny video or eat a piece of chocolate (research shows that these activities boost productivity by 10-12 percent). Have a snack and drink a glass of water—both things also increase focus. On my breaks I’ll often read an interesting article, but not one that will be hard to put down after 10-15 minutes. Doing something of interest energizes people for both the current task and whatever it is that they work on next. And taking a real lunch break (away from a computer!) decreases fatigue and increases afternoon productivity. I try to eat mindfully for a few minutes, really paying attention to the texture and taste of the food in my mouth. After about five minutes, I let my mind wander (rather than trying to keep it focused on my food). Staring into space enhances creativity; boredom is often the precursor for brilliance. 3. Change things up in the afternoon.  Our self-discipline and ability to focus is like a muscle in that it fatigues over the course of a day. This makes afternoons an ideal time to catch up with colleagues or schedule meetings and appointments. But afternoons are also a great time to brainstorm solutions to problems or do other creative work. That’s because we are often most innovative when our intellect is fatigued. So when we’re running out of steam for focused work, and we don’t have the energy to censor our thoughts too closely, it’s an opportune time to shift gears. (Think you do your most innovative work late at night? Perhaps it is because you are too tired to focus. Mind-wandering often leads to creative insight.) 4. Don’t forget to take recess!  Repeat after me: Taking breaks increases productivity. In the afternoon, my recess is an exercise break. Usually, I take my dog, Buster, for a hike. Getting out into nature is key. (This can be a patch of grass or a few trees—it doesn’t have to be Walden Pond.) When we are sick, a view of nature can help us heal faster. When we are distracted, the sight of nature can help us regain our focus. And when we are stressed, images of a natural landscape can slow our heart rates, relax our muscles, and help us feel calm again. Moreover, natural light in the afternoon delays melatonin production, which can keep us feeling alert for longer. As a bonus, pet a dog while you are hiking, if you have one (or see one): Petting a dog increases serotonin and dopamine levels (in humans), hormones that improve happiness and fight depression. 5. Have a really good game plan.  Here’s the key to an effective task list: Tell your brain WHEN you will complete a task. Scheduling an unfinished task can make a huge difference in our ability to focus. When we don’t know when we will do something on our list, our thoughts will typically wander from whatever it is we are doing to our undone tasks. Our unconscious isn’t nagging us to do the task at hand, but rather to make a plan to get it done. Once we have a plan, we can stop worrying about how much we have to do. One of the lesser known precursors to getting into “flow” at work is knowing where you are in your work flow. “That constant awareness of what is next is what keeps you focused,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experiencetold Entrepreneur magazine. “That’s where the engagement comes from.” Before I leave my desk each day I clean up my task list and schedule the next day’s tasks. 6. Eat dinner with your clan. Research suggests that this predictable time together can help protect kids from the perils of modern society (drugs and alcohol, risky sexual behavior, eating disorders). Fortunately, it is good for adults, too—it is the glue that keeps my husband and I connected and laughing together, and that connection is key to staying in the sweet spot. 7.  Establish a predictable—and technology-free—bedtime routine. You might think that bedtime routines are for toddlers, but sleep experts recommend them for adults, too, to cue our minds that we are shifting into sleep mode. I make myself a cup of herbal tea to drink in the evening while I read. While the water brews, I take my vitamins, including Omega-3s, which lubricate the brain, reduce inflammation, and generally contribute to our health and happiness. At 8:30 or 9:00 pm, I shut off my email, social media, and cell phone for the evening. My bedtime routine includes listening to an entertaining audiobook while I put clothes away and neaten up the house. Even though I only listen for 10 or 15 minutes, pairing cleaning up with reading motivates me to actually clean up. I also make sure everything I need for the morning is in its place. At 9:15 pm, I make a quick pit stop in the hot tub and have a little downtime with my hubby. Our body temperature naturally dips before we go to sleep, and when we soak in a hot tub, our temperature rises—but the rapid cool-down immediately afterward signals to our body that we are headed to sleepy town. I stay in the tub for just 10-15 minutes, and get out before I break a sweat. Bonus: One study showed that taking a hot bath daily for eight weeks was more effective than an anti-depressant at fighting anxiety! 8. Get enough sleep!  I know, I know, you don’t have time to get seven or eight hours. Maybe you wish you could get more sleep, but you just can’t find a way to put sleep above your other priorities. So what are your other priorities? Your health? Your happiness? Productivity and success at work? Raising happy and healthy children? Here’s the truth: You will not fulfill your potential in any of these realms unless you get the sleep your body, brain, and spirit need. A mountain of research shows that sleep affects virtually every aspect of our lives, including our intelligence, our satisfaction with our relationships, our moods, our athletic performance, and our ability to learn and retain information. Even 20 minutes of sleep deprivation three days in a row can dramatically lower your IQ. Now, it’s your turn. Go ahead: Be a slacker! Let us know in the comments your favorite (and most productive) ways to slack. Want more information about my daily routine? Check out Chapter 4 of The Sweet Spot for the blow-by-blow, or sign up for my free online class.
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Mindfulness in Action If your mind constantly nags, criticizes and hammers you with its incessant demands, it’s likely that you experience a lot of anxiety. You’ve probably done a lot to help yourself already, including reading about mindfulness and meditating. When you try it as suggested, though, you … ...
The Best Advice I Have Ever Received Give it 48 hours The best advice I have ever received came from of one of the former heads of psychiatry at the University of Southern California (USC). Years ago … ...