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3 Steps to Make Your New Habits Stick this Year Whether we like it or not, this time of year cues our minds to reflect and think about habits we want to change.  If you’re reading this blog, odds are one of those habits are bringing mindfulness into your life more and allowing this to be the year where it sticks....
Spotting Cheaters: How Long Do You Have to Know Most people who are cheating on their romantic partners don’t want to be caught. They don’t want their partners to recognize their infidelity, and they don’t want other people to be able to tell, either. So is it possible for people to just watch a couple and know whether one...
Ten Essential Psych Studies of 2014: Making Narcissists Empathise, Memory Boosting Spice And More… In 2014 we learned which habits make you feel happy, the emotion which lasts the longest and much more... Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick" Related articles:Just 1 Gram of This Spice Boosts Memory in Six Hours The Number of Children That Makes Parents Happiest Are Narcissists As Sexy As They Think? This Beverage Reversed Normal Age-Related Memory Loss in Three Months 10 Current Psychology Studies Every Parent Should Know
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Best of Our Blogs: December 30, 2015 The end of the year beckons us to reflect. All the things we regret saying and not saying, the things we wished we did, and the things we wish we didn’t do. When you think back, how do you resolve what’s not finished yet and still feel right with your...
The Three Most Important Tactics for Keeping Your Resolutions You already know this: More than half of people who make New Year’s resolutions give up on them by June. Don’t join this failing 50 percent in 2015! Instead, follow these three research-based strategies for making resolutions that stick. Make your resolution a habit, not a goal. Your goals for 2015 might include losing 10 pounds, or totally clearing your house of clutter, or finding a new job. All of these might be goals worth setting, and they all involve a lot of different behaviors—and, therefore, a lot of opportunities for failure. Simple behaviors that can become habits that automatically help you achieve your goals make better resolutions than grandiose goals. For example, resolve to eat an apple every afternoon instead of a cookie, or spend 10 minutes each weeknight before bed cleaning out a shelf or a drawer, or send one networking email every morning before you leave for work. For something to become a habit, there needs to be something else that triggers the new behavior—a regular, uniform stimulus that tells you its time to perform this behavior. My morning meditation is triggered by my alarm going off at about the same time every day. If you have a habit in mind that you don’t want to do every day, choose a trigger that occurs only occasionally—i.e., at the times when you want to perform that new behavior regularly down the line. For example, “Do a 30-minute yoga video twice a week” isn’t a habit. It’s a to-do item for your task list because there’s no clear trigger, and therefore no clear way to make it a routine for you. If you want to squeeze that twice-weekly yoga into your schedule, a better approach would be to say, “I’ll pop in my 30-minute yoga video after dropping the kids off at soccer practice on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.” Bake a reward into the actual behavior, rather than holding out until you’ve achieved some far-off goal. We human beings may say that we are pursuing happiness, but really what we tend to pursue is reward. Anything that we might desire could count as a reward: a cashmere sweater, a pretty little cupcake, attention from a mentor, a sense of accomplishment, some affection from a loved one. When our brains identify a potential reward, they release dopamine, a feel-good chemical messenger. That dopamine rush motivates us toward the reward, creating a real sense of craving, wanting, or desire for the carrot that is being dangled in front of us. Fortunately, we can make dopamine work for us rather than against us as we build our habits. To get into a good habit, you’ll need a really satisfying reward—ideally one that’s immediate or, even better, intrinsic to a routine. We can do this by making the activities themselves more rewarding—more fun. This is what I did when I switched my silent, sitting meditation (a very serious, long vipassana—like eating kale for the mind) to meditating along with a Deepak Chopra recording (short, inspiring, and easy—like an iceberg wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese). I was getting a lot out of the longer vipassana meditations when I did them, but I wasn’t meditating regularly. Just as any salad is better than a diet without greens, I decided that at this stage in the game, any meditation is better than none. It might not be a sure road to enlightenment, but it’s closer than hitting snooze in the morning. I’m also a huge fan of the “Yay me!” reward, which I learned from B.J. Fogg at Stanford. Even something as small as a short mental victory dance can trigger a little hit of dopamine, enough to tell your brain to repeat whatever you just did. So when I hear my alarm and sit up in bed, I congratulate myself. If you heard my running internal commentary, you’d think I was utterly crazy, what with the constant “Yay me! I did it again!” self-talk. But it works!   Prepare for failure. Unless you are some sort of superhero, you will not be able to get into this new habit perfectly the first time. You’ll trip and fall and royally screw up. Research indicates that 88 percent of people have failed to keep a new resolution. In my experience as a human being and a coach, 100 percent of people starting a new habit lapse at some point. Faltering is a normal part of the process. It doesn’t matter if you have a lapse, or even a relapse, as much as it matters how you respond to that lapse. So take a minute to think about what tools you need to embark on your new habit. What obstacles will you likely face? People who plan for how they’re going to react to different obstacles tend to be able to meet their goals more successfully. For example, research suggests that recovery from hip-replacement surgery depends in large part on having patients think through obstacles to their recovery and then make a specific plan for how they will deal with those obstacles. What obstacles can you predict and plan for? Don’t forget to include the people in your life who (often unintentionally) throw up roadblocks. For example, my husband was not a fan of my morning exercise routine when he noticed how early I was going to bed, and I was successful only when I planned out how I’d respond to his attempts to convince me to stay up later with him. In his fantastic book, The Marshmallow Test, the celebrated psychologist Walter Mischel gives what I think is his best advice for responding to challenges: make an “implementation plan.” First, identify the “hot spots that trigger the impulsive reactions you want to control,” like your alarm going off while it is still dark, or seeing your favorite hot wings on the menu. Then, decide what you will do when the trigger goes off, phrasing your behavior plan in simple, “If-Then” terms. For example: “If my alarm goes off and I want to press snooze, I will immediately get out of bed and walk to the bathroom.” Or: “If I see hot wings on the menu and feel the urge to order them, I will immediately choose a salad to order instead.” This strategy may seem too simplistic to work, but lots of research proves it to be, as Mischel writes, “astonishingly effective.” Finally, even with the best laid plans, lapses are still going to happen—probably over and over again. In those cases, what’s important is that you don’t beat yourself up for your lack of willpower but instead try to practice self-compassion . When we practice self-compassion, we recognize that everyone makes mistakes and falls short of their expectations for themselves at one time or another—in fact, our shortcomings are what bind us to the rest of our fellow humans. Pioneering research by Kristin Neff, of the University of Texas, has found that when people treat themselves with self-compassion—that is, they extend to themselves the same kind of understanding and kindness that they would show a friend who makes a mistake—they are actually more likely to bounce back from a failure and stay on track to meet their goals. I believe, in my heart of hearts, that New Year’s resolutions are a fantastic opportunity to develop new behaviors that really can make us happier, healthier, and more successful in 2015. The key is knowing how to make resolutions that stick. If you need more support (most people do!) sign up to get one helpful daily email each day for 21 days—a short tip, and a worksheet you can complete in a few minutes. Happy New Year!
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Organizing Space for Quality Downtime   Organization Nerd   One skill of mine that has kept me on track most of the time as a person that lives with Bipolar Disorder, is my ability to organize space, paperwork, and ideas. It’s also one of the things I listed on my last article on recovering after...
How the brain can distinguish good from bad smells Whether an odor is pleasant or disgusting to an organism is not just a matter of taste. Often, an organism’s survival depends on its ability to make just such a discrimination, because odors can provide important information about food sources, oviposition sites or suitable mates. However, odor sources can also be signs of lethal hazards. [...]The post How the brain can distinguish good from bad smells appeared first on PsyPost.
Tooth loss linked to slowing mind and body The memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more rapidly than in those who still have some of their own teeth, finds new UCL research. The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, looked at 3,166 adults aged 60 or over from the English Longitudinal [...]The post Tooth loss linked to slowing mind and body appeared first on PsyPost.
‘Deep learning’ finds autism, cancer mutations in unexplored regions of the genome Scientists and engineers have built a computer model that has uncovered disease-causing mutations in large regions of the genome that previously could not be explored. Their method seeks out mutations that cause changes in ‘gene splicing,’ and has revealed unexpected genetic determinants of autism, colon cancer and spinal muscular atrophy. CIFAR Senior Fellow Brendan Frey [...]The post ‘Deep learning’ finds autism, cancer mutations in unexplored regions of the genome appeared first on PsyPost.
The fine-tuning of human color perception The evolution of trichromatic color vision in humans occurred by first switching from the ability to detect UV light to blue light (between 80-30 MYA) and then by adding green-sensitivity (between 45-30 MYA) to the preexisting red-sensitivity in the vertebrate ancestor. The detailed molecular and functional changes of the human color vision have been revealed [...]The post The fine-tuning of human color perception appeared first on PsyPost.
Tackling neurotransmission precision Behind all motor, sensory and memory functions, calcium ions are in the brain, making those functions possible. Yet neuroscientists do not entirely understand how fast calcium ions reach their targets inside neurons, and how that timing changes neural signaling. Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University have determined how the distance [...]The post Tackling neurotransmission precision appeared first on PsyPost.
Scientists locate homing signal in brain, explaining why some people are better navigators The part of the brain that tells us the direction to travel when we navigate has been identified by UCL scientists, and the strength of its signal predicts how well people can navigate. It has long been known that some people are better at navigating than others, but until now it has been unclear why. [...]The post Scientists locate homing signal in brain, explaining why some people are better navigators appeared first on PsyPost.
#130 Christmas at Ground Zero In honor of the season I wanted to go back to a story that has become the stuff of legend in our family. Christmas  has been a time of joy in our household but not without its, shall we say, traumatic moments.  Our three older boys were about eight, six...
Mini Manic Moments For the past month I have been on a new antidepressant called Prestiq to help with my anxiety. It seems to be a never-ending battle of keeping the fear at bay. Prestiq is in addition to the antidepressant, Prozac. The only real hard-to-handle side effect I experienced was sweating. Yes....
Are New Treatments for Depression Right Under Our Nose? “The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.” – Edith Wharton Yogic breathing, a phone app, and laughing gas may be some of the best new remedies for depression. Some interesting pilot studies in 2014 are providing hope for the future of depression. Curiously, these new possibilities all involve...
What you tweet when you go party can be useful for improving urban planning Millions of Twitter users are constantly reporting where they are and what they are doing. With this information, two Spanish computer science experts suggest using geolocalized tweets for urban planning and land use. They have already done it in Manhattan, Madrid and London and have been able to identify, for example, nightlife areas of these [...]The post What you tweet when you go party can be useful for improving urban planning appeared first on PsyPost.
Thanking customers can reap rewards Companies rarely acknowledge customers who fill out those ubiquitous satisfaction surveys. But a sincere, well-timed “thank you” can reap huge rewards, finds first-of-its-kind research led by a Michigan State University marketing scholar. According to the study, which focused on an upscale sit-down restaurant, satisfied customers who received an acknowledgement of their comments from the company [...]The post Thanking customers can reap rewards appeared first on PsyPost.