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A Letter to My Younger Self: 5 Things I... I’ve heard from so many unloved daughters that they wish they’d understood the dynamics of their relationships to their mothers years ago, and that they regret the wasted time. I … ...
Memory Recall Is Tripled By An Easy ‘Self-Imagination’ Technique, Study Finds For both healthy people and those with memory problems, the technique improved recall dramatically. ** PsyBlog's new ebook is out now: "Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything" **
Are Scores on the MBTI Totally Meaningless? The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not without its faults, but the criticisms leveled at this inventory by many of my colleagues are off-base.
Wrong Personality For The Job Have you ever been interviewed for a job and rejected on account of you personality? Here is the story of a personality psychologist whose phone interview did not go well.
Tracing the scent of fear A new study has identified nerve cells and a region of the brain behind this innate fear response. With a new technique that uses specially-engineered viruses to uncover the nerve pathway involved, a research team has pinpointed a tiny area of the mouse brain responsible for this scent-induced reaction.
The Most Severe Personality Disorder Weakens Empathic Brain Activity Why people with the most severe personality disorder find it difficult to have romantic relationships and friendships. ** PsyBlog's new ebook is out now: "Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything" **
It’s the Talent, Stupid Most of us want to pay less taxes, see our investments create huge returns in the very near future, and only live with people who appreciate our work.
The Myth of Negative Emotions Emotions that provide us with unpleasant feelings have traditionally (and unfairly) been labelled “negative emotions.” People tend to want to avoid them, force them away, or silence them as soon as they emerge. They are the Rodney Dangerfield of emotions: they get no respect. The … ...
Financial Privilege and the Publication of Science With a steep increase in “open-access” scholarly publishing, comes a non-egalitarian trend - only scholars from wealthy institutions can "afford" to publish in the best journals.
Recognizing Aspergers or NLD No two people with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) or NLD are alike. People with AS and NLD are usually enjoyable bright people who bring unique insights and hard work to any task … ...
Beyond Alzheimer's: Study reveals how mix of brain ailments drives dementia An analysis based on long-term studies of nuns and Japanese American men provides compelling new evidence that dementia often results from a mix of brain pathologies, rather than a single condition.
Today I Love This Slow Spring Start Today I love this slow spring start, I hear it’s cool in Florida, and I know it is still chilly here. I love the dusting of snow and the promise … ...
Studying human brain using 3D printing technology At two percent of our body weight, and made up of 100 billion nerve cells, the brain is a hugely complex organ. Scientists can study the brain using animal models, but in recent years much work has gone in to seeking alternatives. A team of researchers has come up with a way of printing brain structures in 3D so they can grow nerve cells to mimic a real brain.
Stem cells used to identify cellular processes related to glaucoma Using stem cells derived from human skin cells, researches have successfully demonstrated the ability to turn stem cells into retinal ganglion cells, the neurons that conduct visual information from the eye to the brain. Their goal is the development of therapies to prevent or cure glaucoma.
Everything You Need to Know About Flow Imagine being totally absorbed in an activity you enjoy. Time melts away. You lose your sense of self-consciousness. You’re in the zone. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi popularized the idea of “flow,” the state of mind you enter when you’re engaged in something rewarding and completely engaging. Some of the characteristics of flow...
Living in Harmony With Time Our lives always take place in the present - and we should always feel a sense of their brevity and fragility, and try to live as fully as possible.
Is Baroness Bakewell Wrong About Anorexia’s Link to Narcissism?... Joan Bakewell, an eminent member of the House of Lords, is apologizing for comments she made linking anorexia to narcissism. The BBC News and other media sites report that she is now “deeply sorry” for causing “distress” by suggesting the rise of eating disorders among … ...
5 Ways to Bounce Back from Sticking Your Foot... I didn’t earn the nickname “Tourette’s” for my great small talk skills. If there is a way to accidentally offend someone, I will find it. Here are some of my favorites: My daughter Katherine is named after my grandmother and my great-grandmother, two very strong … ...
ADHD, I Got This I do. I have ADHD. It isn’t something you catch, so don’t worry, I’m not contagious. On the other hand, if you already have it but are oblivious, close proximity … ...
The Four Keys to Well-Being This article is derived from a talk given by Richard Davidson, neuroscientist and founder at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, at the Greater Good Science Center’s Mindfulness & Well-Being at Work conference. Well-being is a skill. All of the work that my colleagues and I have been doing leads inevitably to this central conclusion. Well-being is fundamentally no different than learning to play the cello. If one practices the skills of well-being, one will get better at it. Based on our research, well-being has four constituents that have each received serious scientific attention. Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity—so we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen. Practicing these four skills can provide the substrate for enduring change, which can help to promote higher levels of well-being in our lives. 1. Resilience To paraphrase the bumper sticker, stuff happens. We cannot buffer ourselves from that stuff, but we can change the way we respond to it. Resilience is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity; some people recover slowly and other people recover more quickly. We know that individuals who show a more rapid recovery in certain key neural circuits have higher levels of well-being. They are protected in many ways from the adverse consequences of life’s slings and arrows. Recent research that we’ve conducted in our lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison—very new work that’s not yet published—asked whether these specific brain circuits can be altered by regular practice in simple mindfulness meditation. The answer is yes—but you need several thousand hours of practice before you see real change. Unlike the other constituents of well-being, it takes a while to improve your resilience. It’s not something that is going to happen quickly—but this insight can still motivate and inspire us to keep meditating. 2. Outlook The second key to well-being—outlook—is in many ways the flip-side of the first one. I use outlook to refer to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savor positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness. Even individuals who suffer from depression show activation in the brain circuit underlying outlook, but in them, it doesn’t last—it’s very transient. Here, unlike with resilience, research indicates that simple practices of lovingkindness and compassion meditation may alter this circuitry quite quickly, after a very, very modest dose of practice. We published a study in 2013 where individuals who had never meditated before were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group received a secular form of compassion training and the other received cognitive reappraisal training, an emotion-regulation strategy that comes from cognitive therapy. We scanned people’s brains before and after two weeks of training, and we found that in the compassion group, brain circuits that are important for this positive outlook were strengthened. After just seven hours—30 minutes of practice a day for two weeks—we not only saw changes in the brain, but these changes also predicted kind and helpful behavior. 3. Attention The third building-block of well-being may surprise you. It’s attention. To paraphrase the title of a very important paper that was published several years ago by a group of social psychologists at Harvard, “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” In this particular study, researchers used smartphones to query people as they were out and about in the real world, essentially asking three questions: What are you doing right now? Where is your mind right now? Is it focused on what you’re doing, or is it focused elsewhere? How happy or unhappy are you right now? Across a large group of adults in America, researchers found that people spend an average of 47 percent of their waking life not paying attention to what they’re doing. Forty-seven percent of the time! Can you envision a world where that number goes down a little, by even 5 percent? Imagine what impact that might have on productivity, on showing up, on being present with another person and deeply listening. This quality of attention is so fundamentally important that William James, in his very famous two-volume tome The Principles of Psychology, has a whole chapter on attention. He said that the ability to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will. And he went on to say that an education that sharpens attention would be education par excellence. But, he continues, it is easier to define this ideal than to give practical directions for bringing it about. Today, we have practical steps for educating attention. And I think if James had had more contact with contemplative practices, he would have instantaneously seen these as vehicles for educating attention. 4. Generosity There are now a plethora of data showing that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. These circuits get activated in a way that is more enduring than the way we respond to other positive incentives, such as winning a game or earning a prize. Human beings come into the world with innate, basic goodness. When we engage in practices that are designed to cultivate kindness and compassion, we’re not actually creating something de novo—we’re not actually creating something that didn’t already exist. What we’re doing is recognizing, strengthening, and nurturing a quality that was there from the outset. Our brains are constantly being shaped wittingly or unwittingly—most of the time unwittingly. Through the intentional shaping of our minds, we can shape our brains in ways that would enable these four fundamental constituents of well-being to be strengthened. In that way, we can take responsibility for our own minds.