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Sun, 25 Sep 2016
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Digital heroin: Technology addictions are turning kids into psychotic junkies

© Getty
Susan* bought her 6-year-old son John an iPad when he was in first grade. "I thought, 'Why not let him get a jump on things?' " she told me during a therapy session. John's school had begun using the devices with younger and younger grades — and his technology teacher had raved about their educational benefits — so Susan wanted to do what was best for her sandy-haired boy who loved reading and playing baseball.

She started letting John play different educational games on his iPad. Eventually, he discovered Minecraft, which the technology teacher assured her was "just like electronic Lego." Remembering how much fun she had as a child building and playing with the interlocking plastic blocks, Susan let her son Minecraft his afternoons away.

At first, Susan was quite pleased. John seemed engaged in creative play as he explored the cube-world of the game. She did notice that the game wasn't quite like the Legos that she remembered — after all, she didn't have to kill animals and find rare minerals to survive and get to the next level with her beloved old game. But John did seem to really like playing and the school even had a Minecraft club, so how bad could it be?

Comment: A thought-provoking experiment: What happens when children don't have the internet for a whole day?


Brain

False memories: How false memories are created and can affect our ability to recall events

You may take it for granted that the person whose memory you can trust the most is your own.

Yet, psychologists have found that our recollection of everyday events may not be as dependable as we would believe. Moreover, even once information has been committed to memory, it can be altered. Our recollection of memories can be manipulated and even entire sets of events can be confabulated (Coan, 1997).1

False memories have been investigated by psychologists as early as Freud but have attracted significant attention in recent decades. Our recollection of past events can affect not only our future decisions and opinions but also more significant outcomes, such as court verdicts, when influenced by inaccurate eyewitness testimonies (Loftus, 1975).2

Heart

Emotional agility: Showing up to your emotions frees your spirit

© Flickr/taylor.f11
Free yourself up to just be.
Generally speaking, trying hard is a great way to achieve most of what you want in life.

Put in more effort at work and your prospects for a promotion will almost definitely improve — at least more than they would if you simply accepted the status quo of being a slacker.

Date a lot of people and you'll have a better chance of meeting your soulmate than if you stayed at home moping on the couch.

So if it's happiness you want, it makes sense to think that actively trying to be happier is the sure path to getting there, especially compared to resigning yourself to a future of never smiling again.

But psychologists are increasingly discovering that when it comes to happiness, trying can backfire. Instead, the paradoxical key to true happiness seems to be accepting unhappiness — not forcing yourself to feel how you don't.

Susan David calls it "showing up" to your emotions.

David is a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the author of the new book "Emotional Agility." In the book, she teaches readers to deal with their emotions in a healthy way, so that they're neither hiding them nor letting their feelings control their behavior.

Light Saber

Nourishing confidence: Five techniques to build lasting self-esteem

Everyone is in favor of high self-esteem — but cultivating it can be surprisingly tough. Psychologist Guy Winch explains why — and describes smart ways we can help build ourselves up.

Many of us recognize the value of improving our feelings of self-worth. When our self-esteem is higher, we not only feel better about ourselves, we are more resilient as well. Brain scan studies demonstrate that when our self-esteem is higher, we are likely to experience common emotional wounds such as rejection and failure as less painful, and bounce back from them more quickly. When our self-esteem is higher, we are also less vulnerable to anxiety; we release less cortisol into our bloodstream when under stress, and it is less likely to linger in our system.

But as wonderful as it is to have higher self-esteem, it turns out that improving it is no easy task. Despite the endless array of articles, programs and products promising to enhance our self-esteem, the reality is that many of them do not work and some are even likely to make us feel worse.

Part of the problem is that our self-esteem is rather unstable to begin with, as it can fluctuate daily, if not hourly. Further complicating matters, our self-esteem comprises both our global feelings about ourselves as well as how we feel about ourselves in the specific domains of our lives (e.g., as a father, a nurse, an athlete, etc.). The more meaningful a specific domain of self-esteem, the greater the impact it has on our global self-esteem. Having someone wince when they taste the not-so-delicious dinner you prepared will hurt a chef's self-esteem much more than someone for whom cooking is not a significant aspect of their identity.

Lastly, having high self-esteem is indeed a good thing, but only in moderation. Very high self-esteem — like that of narcissists — is often quite brittle. Such people might feel great about themselves much of the time but they also tend to be extremely vulnerable to criticism and negative feedback and respond to it in ways that stunts their psychological self-growth.

That said, it is certainly possible to improve our self-esteem if we go about it the right way. Here are five ways to nourish your self-esteem when it is low:

Comment: Further reading: 8 exercises for building the confidence to achieve your aims


Butterfly

Incorporating mindfulness into household chores can increase mental stimulation and decrease anxiety

© Shutterstock
When done properly, the chore decreased nervousness by 27% and increased mental inspiration by 25%.

Mindful dishwashing can decrease stress and calm the mind, a new study finds.

People in the study focused on the smell of the soap, the feel and shape of the dishes to help them enter a mindful state.

Doing the dishes in a mindful way also increased the pleasurable feeling of time slowing down, the researchers found.

Mr Adam Hanley, the study's first author, said:
"I've had an interest in mindfulness for many years, both as a contemplative practitioner and a researcher.

I was particularly interested in how the mundane activities in life could be used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increase overall sense of well-being."

Rainbow

Aging's silver lining: Research suggests people become happier and less stressed as they grow older


The older adults get, the better their mental health, new research shows.
Believe it or not, there are upsides to getting older.

Yes, your physical health is likely to decline as you age. And unfortunately, your cognitive abilities like learning new skills and remembering things is likely to suffer too.

But despite such downsides, research suggests that your overall mental health, including your mood, your sense of well-being and your ability to handle stress, just keeps improving right up until the very end of life.

Consider it something to look forward to.

In a recent survey of more than 1,500 San Diego residents aged 21 to 99, researchers report that people in their 20s were the most stressed out and depressed, while those in their 90s were the most content.

There were no dips in well-being in midlife, and no tapering off of well-being at the end of life.

Instead scientists found a clear, linear relationship between age and mental health: The older people were, the happier they felt.

"The consistency was really striking," said Dilip Jeste, director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging and senior author of the study. "People who were in older life were happier, more satisfied, less depressed, had less anxiety and less perceived stress than younger respondents."

Comment: Aging is a state of mind: Ways to defy the hands of time


Apple Red

Smarter parenting: Forego punishment in favor of reinforcing the behaviors you do want to see

Say you have a problem child. If it's a toddler, maybe he smacks his siblings. Or she refuses to put on her shoes as the clock ticks down to your morning meeting at work. If it's a teenager, maybe he peppers you with obscenities during your all-too-frequent arguments. The answer is to punish them, right?

Not so, says Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center. Punishment might make you feel better, but it won't change the kid's behavior. Instead, he advocates for a radical technique in which parents positively reinforce the behavior they do want to see until the negative behavior eventually goes away.

As I was reporting my recent series about child abuse, I came to realize that parents fall roughly into three categories. There's a small number who seem intuitively to do everything perfectly: Moms and dads with chore charts that actually work and snack-sized bags of organic baby carrots at the ready. There's an even smaller number who are horrifically abusive to their kids. But the biggest chunk by far are parents in the middle. They're far from abusive, but they aren't super-parents, either. They're busy and stressed, so they're too lenient one day and too harsh the next. They have outdated or no knowledge of child psychology, and they're scrambling to figure it all out.

Parents in this middle group might turn to Kazdin and his parenting interventions. I spoke with Kazdin about his unusual method. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Comment: Other studies concur that punishment is often counterproductive:


Music

Happy upbeat music has the power to make a workplace more cooperative and supportive

© Cornell University
Cornell University researchers found that music can have important effects on the cooperative spirits of those exposed to music.
From casual acoustic melodies at the coffee shop to throbbing electronic beats at teen clothing outlets, music is used to mold customer experience and behavior. But what impact does it have on employees?

Cornell University researchers explored this question in a pair of lab experiments and found that music can have important effects on the cooperative spirits of those exposed to music.

In the paper newly published by the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Cornell researchers Kevin Kniffin, Jubo Yan, Brian Wansink and William Schulze describe two studies they conducted to test the effect of different types of music on the cooperative behavior of individuals working as a team.

For each study, participants were grouped into teams of three. Each team member was given multiple opportunities to either contribute to the team's value using tokens or keep the tokens for personal use.

When happy, upbeat music was played - researchers chose the "Happy Days" theme song, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles and "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves - team members were more likely to contribute to the group's value. When music deemed unpleasant was played - in this case, heavy metal songs by less than well-known bands - participants were more likely to keep tokens for themselves. The researchers found contribution levels to the public good when happy, upbeat songs were played were approximately one-third higher compared to the less pleasant music.

Comment: Music has a powerful therapeutic effect on the body and mind. Not only can it increase our sense of community and promote social bonding, but can relieve stress and depression, ameliorate PTSD symptoms, boost brain development and even improve the quality of sleep.


Bulb

7 signs that you are probably smarter than average, no IQ test required

No IQ test required, here are some hints that your intelligence might be above average.

Other studies now suggest a link between intelligence and mental illness that may go back into our evolutionary past.

The increased intelligence of Homo sapiens was originally a result of gene mutations.

The cost of these gene mutations, however, may have been an increase in mental illness (Nithianantharajah et al., 2012).

Comment: Not included in this list is the benefits of cigarette smoking. See also: Secret health benefits of Nicotine


Family

'Gardening' children vs micromanaging them

Parents today have the highest conditioning of fear in the history of humankind. They are scared of everything and it reflects in their children. They jump at the opportunity to drug them, vaccinate them and intoxicate them with all types of pharmaceuticals for diseases they are told are a threat by scientific doctrines based on fear themselves. The loving care, informed by tradition and human experience, has now become a management plan in crises intervention. They fear for the child's friendships, socialization, education, opportunities, nutrition, health, treatment, but most of all their for their life. The life of the child must not follow any unknown path that the parent perceives as a threat. In short, we have a micromanaged a generation of robots whose fear programming then materializes in their reality.

Parents of young children are often overwhelmed by advice. The degree of generational differences in health, medicine, food, safety, and general well-being of children is colossal today in comparison to just 40 years ago.

Comment: See also: Paradigm shift: The Difference between children who grew up in the 70's vs. today