Saturday, November 19, 2016
“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”
I can very easily relate to this and I expect you can too? Colored mental video snapshots of those moments in life that transport us to another time, another place. Occasionally triggered by an old photo, a scent, revisiting a certain place, bumping into a face from the past…… Moments that can create a smile, or perhaps a tear or two. This is what life is made up of. Every single day creates moments, both happy and sad, some of which we may reminisce about one day in the future. All part of the wonderful collage we call life. Let’s hope your memories create many more smiles than tears.
Friday, November 18, 2016
By Claudia Wallis
A political scientist argues that one emotion catapulted the reality-TV star to the White House.
A political scientist argues that one emotion catapulted the reality-TV star to the White House.
What emotions drove the 2016 presidential election?
Katherine J. Cramer might have one answer. She is author of The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, and a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she heads the Morgridge Center for Public Service.
Her work focuses on the way people in the U.S. make sense of politics and their place in it. Cramer’s methodology is unusual and very direct. Instead of relying polls and survey data, she drops in on informal gatherings in rural areas—coffee shops, gas stations—and listens in on what people say to their neighbors and friends. It is a method that likely gets at psychological and social truths missed by pollsters. Scientific American MIND Managing Editor Claudia Wallis interviewed her in the wake of the election.
Claudia Wallis: Were you surprised by the election of Donald Trump?
Katherine J. Cramer: I was surprised, but probably not as much as many people. I had a sense that support for Trump was very strong—even among people who readily recognized his flaws but felt that finally this was someone who was going to shake things up—and said wasn’t it about time?
CW: Your state, Wisconsin, was one of three so-called “blue wall” states that turned red for Trump. Why, in your view, did that happen?
KJC: In Wisconsin, as was true across the nation, there was a very strong rural turnout and a not so strong urban turnout. And in our rural areas what I have learned is that there are many people who feel that neither party represents them and many have a strong resentment toward the cities and urban elites. They feel as though they are not getting their fair share of power—no one is really listening to them. They are not getting their fair share taxpayer dollars—the money goes to the cities, and also they are not getting their fair share of respect—people assume folks in small towns are ignorant and racist. That mix of resentment is pretty fertile ground for a right-leaning candidate.
Many times this resentment comes out as a feeling of, I’m a deserving person, a hardworking American and the things I deserve are actually going to other people who are less deserving. Donald Trump’s message really tapped into that sentiment. What I heard him saying was: You are right, you are not getting your fair share, you should be angry, you are a deserving, hardworking American and what you deserve is going to people who don’t deserve it. He pointed his finger at immigrants, the Chinese, bad trade deals, Muslims, uppity women. He gave people concrete targets, and it was a way of sparking anger and mobilizing support.
CW: We’ve seen an economic recovery in the past eight years, including a drop in unemployment below five percent. Are the folks in small towns in the Midwest not getting their piece of the action?
KJC: Yes. When the latest economic figures came out—the report showed that the economic recovery was much less in rural areas. Folks in small towns and rural places see the coasts are doing well. And, Silicon Valley? Holy cow! We are getting left behind.
CW: How did the “Make America Great Again” play?
KJC: I never had someone say: Wow, isn’t that a great campaign slogan? But even back in 2007, before Trump seemed like a viable candidate, so much of what I heard in these communities was how their communities were in decline and people felt nostalgic about how their communities used to be so vibrant, and people used to be able to have the kind of job their parents had and make a good life. So much of what they told me was about a sense of loss for a pretty good past: I’m doing what people told me I’m supposed to do, I’m working hard, I’m a family person—How can it be that I’m not getting my just deserts? Part of it was stories about how the economy had changed, outsourcing and jobs going overseas and that notion. So “Make America Great Again” really hit that note.
CW: Did Bernie Sanders hit that note, too?
KJC: I don’t think his message resonated quite the way Trump’s did.
CW: You’ve written that many rural folk feel they have been unfairly tagged as racists by urban elites. Could you talk about this?
KJC: People assume that this resentment toward the city is coded language for racism; they say urban and they really mean black. But that doesn’t capture the complexity of people’s views. They are talking about wealthy, urban white folks, too. People in small towns resent having it characterized as racism—and also, there’s so much racism in our cities, so rural folks say: What are you talking about?
CW: You write about the “Wisconsin nice” character of your state’s residents. Why did these nice, god-fearing Midwesterners so easily look beyond Trump’s bullying, attack-dog persona; his predatory behavior toward women; and other not-so-nice aspects of his character?
KJC: I can give you some examples of the things that people told me. One man in central Wisconsin said: I know he’s obnoxious. I know he’s saying some crazy outlandish things, but there’s no way that I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s partly that. One man in the same group—this was months ago—said: Look, it’s time for the reckoning. Things are so out of whack that they are about to implode, and we might as well just bring it on. Let’s elect Donald Trump and he will completely change the nature of Washington, D.C. The brashness was kind of an asset. Another person said: Yes, he’s kind of obnoxious but that’s what we need on the world stage these days. Other world leaders, like Putin, are obnoxious, brash characters.
CW: Did you hear a lot of, “There’s no way I’d vote for Hillary?” What did she represent to these voters?
KJC: I started to hear their thoughts about her candidacy back in 2008. There was a perception of her as your prototypical not-genuine D.C. politician, doing whatever she needed to get ahead. Some didn’t feel very positively about Bill Clinton and that was rubbing off on her.
But I think, too, unfortunately, part of it was this sense of what kind of a woman is this? Who is this hyper-public person—very ambitious, very assertive? For many people it doesn’t fit their sense of the way women ought to behave. She didn’t come across as warm. We know that for women running for office there’s this very fine line that they must tread of having enough male-like characteristics that people can imagine them in an executive position but at the same time, if they are not warm enough, they get labeled as something really distasteful. For many people I spent time with, Hillary Clinton was not traditionally female enough.
CW: Isn’t that just sexism?
KJC: I’m not using that word, but I guess it is sexism.
CW: Where do you think the politics of resentment will lead?
KJC: In the short term I think they will lead to support for some pretty significant policy changes. To enact some pretty bold legislation. Change in immigration laws, canceling the trade agreements. Tax cuts.
But I don’t know how that’s going to make people happier about their political systems. There’s a lot of discomfort with politics as usual. There’s a lot of pain this week. I see it among my students both Republican-leaning and Democrat-leaning. I think we are in for a rough ride. My hope, especially for younger people, is that they aspire to something different. That they figure out a way to actually get along and cooperate without demonizing the other side.
CW: Finally, is there something else you’d like to add as you head back out to listen to listen to more conversations around the state?
KJC: The one thing I would add is that when I talk about this research—and people know I’m a middle-aged social scientist from Madison driving my Prius to outstate Wisconsin—they say: How do you do it? How do you stand listening?
But these are often delightful conversations. People are warm. Much of the resentment that they convey to me they are doing with humor. Oftentimes there is a lot of pain in the conversation, especially with this nostalgia stuff. But they are sharing very human conversations.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
Going by what I have read or come across recently in the media, there are a great many people professing to be attempting to find themselves. I find myself wondering when we can expect to see someone putting their hand up, in order to be noticed, while announcing “Hurray, I’ve found myself, aren’t I clever?” Some unfortunate people may spend so much time trying to find themselves in life that, one day, reality sets in and they realize that there isn’t any point anymore as their life is almost over. How sad! So, please don’t let that be you will you? Spend every single day of your life creating who you want to be, what you want to achieve, follow your dreams, and occasionally dare to take a step or two into the unknown. Don’t you be that unfortunate soul looking back on life from old age and shedding tears of regret for what might have been.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
By Kira M. Newman
Stuck in negativity? Writing down your feelings can be a healthy way to cope, a new book explains.
Stuck in negativity? Writing down your feelings can be a healthy way to cope, a new book explains.
Do you keep a diary in good times or bad? According to researchers James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth, most journalers tend to fall squarely in one of the two categories: Either they write regularly until adversity hits, then can’t continue; or they only put pen to paper when they’re feeling down.
I fall in the latter category, and at some point I worried that my journals were getting pretty grim. Did I really want to look back and read tales of stress, uncertainty, and loss? But it turns out I was inadvertently engaging in a practice called Expressive Writing, one that has been the subject of hundreds of studies in the past thirty years. And according to that body of research, writing about your deepest struggles can have a positive impact on health and well-being.
In a new edition of their book Opening Up by Writing It Down, Pennebaker and Smyth survey the scientific history of Expressive Writing, its benefits, and how to make it work for you. When you feel stuck, this powerful writing practice can get all those painful thoughts and feelings out of your head, starting the process of healing.
How to do Expressive Writing
The basic instructions for Expressive Writing go something like this: Write continuously for 20 minutes about your deepest emotions and thoughts surrounding an emotional challenge in your life. In your writing, really let go and explore the event and how it has affected you. You might tie it to your childhood, your relationship with your parents, people you have loved, or even your career.
To get the most out of this exercise, it helps to carve out quiet time and space to go deep. The goal is to gain insights and see new connections among your feelings, not to just vent with a pen. Although study participants sometimes write about big traumas and shameful secrets—from child abuse to their experiences at war—you can also write about whatever is frustrating or preoccupying you at the moment.
For example, here are some variations on Expressive Writing that Pennebaker and Smyth recommend:
- Writing for Problem Solving: Write for 10 minutes about a personal problem, then read your writing and identify the key obstacles you’re facing. Write about those obstacles for another 10 minutes and again read your writing. Finally, write for 10 more minutes synthesizing what you’ve learned.
- Before bed, journal about your worries and concerns—you might find that you fall asleep faster!
- Write down the word “Stress,” and do a word association: What word or topic does it bring to mind? What word or topic does that new one bring to mind? Do this successively and then see if you can gain insight into what stress means to you.
Although the traditional advice is to write for 20 minutes, four days in a row, research suggests that even writing for a few minutes can be beneficial. Pennebaker and Smyth do recommend trying at least two sessions, even if you only wait 10 minutes in between, because that break time allows your brain to process and integrate. Although some people choose to explore the same issue over and over, finding new angles every time, others write about different topics during each session.
Could Expressive Writing ever be harmful? Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly who benefits the most from this practice. Some evidence, by no means conclusive, suggests that it’s most helpful to people who have the least opportunity or inclination to disclose their feelings in daily life; other research suggests that Expressive Writing might not be helpful when the trauma is too recent or ongoing.
For now, you are your best guide here; if writing feels right, do it. If you don’t feel like you’re ready, or writing feels ruminative, or if it’s keeping you from making important changes in your life, then it might not be doing you any good.
Why practice Expressive Writing?
As you might imagine, sitting down and writing about fear, sadness, or anger isn’t the most pleasant experience—which is perhaps why even some regular diary writers can’t bring themselves to do it. Studies do suggest that Expressive Writing can make you feel sad and anxious immediately afterward, but the long-term effects are a different story.
In the earliest studies of Expressive Writing, researchers invited participants to write about a trauma in their life or about superficial topics for four days in a row. Compared to the superficial writers, the expressive writers felt a greater sense of meaning afterward, showed better immune function six weeks later, and had fewer doctor visits in the half year following the experiment. Exactly how Expressive Writing improves health is still being explored today, decades later, but it essentially appears to buffer against the deleterious effects of stress and rumination.
Expressive Writing could even help you get a job. In another study, engineers who had recently been laid off wrote about their thoughts and feelings around the layoff. Seven months later, more than half of them had a new job—three times as many compared to groups who wrote about time management or didn’t write at all. The participants in each group went on roughly the same number of interviews, so what was going on? Researchers believed that the Expressive Writing engineers had worked through their anger, so they probably made a better impression in interviews when discussing their former employer.
Expressive Writing might be useful after another major life change: entering college. Research suggests that it can help new students cope with the transition to university, with health benefits lasting up to four months. In fact, it can even improve working memory as well as grades and standardized test scores—good news for stressed-out freshmen.
The most exciting benefits of Expressive Writing may be for people who suffer from mental health issues or chronic disease. According to one study, people suffering from depression may see reductions in their symptoms up to one month after trying this practice, and there’s also some evidence that it could help with post-traumatic stress disorder. Expressive Writing may bring relief to those with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome; help people reduce their high blood pressure; boost immune function in patients with HIV; and improve quality of life for cancer and heart attack patients.
Why does Expressive Writing work?
“We still don’t have a solid explanation of why [Expressive Writing] does and doesn’t work,” admit Pennebaker and Smyth. But preliminary studies, and comments from scores of study participants, are starting to piece together a story: There’s something powerful about translating our experiences into words—and not keeping them buried inside.
In the famous book Getting Things Done, author David Allen argues that to-do lists are essential because they get tasks out of our heads, freeing up space for more important thoughts; our creative ideas no longer have to jostle for attention alongside “buy lettuce at ShopRite.”
A similar process may be going on with negative experiences, Pennebaker and Smyth suggest. If we let painful thoughts rattle around in our heads, they seem to constantly resurface and demand our attention, hoping to be resolved and processed. “One reason we often obsess about a disturbing experience is that we are trying to understand it,” they explain.
When we finally sit down and try to make sense of it in writing, we may find that our thoughts settle down. Our experience becomes more of a narrative, and we can observe it with a bit more detachment. That frees up the mind for healthier things, like getting a good night’s sleep and really connecting with others.
When we put our thoughts and feelings down on paper, we’re not just transferring them—we’re also transforming them. Writing forces us to arrange our ideas into a sequence, one after another; over time, themes and patterns start to emerge; new insights and perspectives start to bubble up: Ah yes, that’s why I felt so hurt when she said that or This has happened before—why do I seem to be sabotaging myself?
Researchers have done textual analysis on Expressive Writing samples, and they found a fascinating pattern: The participants who see the most benefits use an increasing number of cognitive words—effect, reason, realize, know—in successive writing sessions. You can literally see them shifting from feeling and suffering to thinking and understanding over time. (Interestingly, the ones who use lots of cognitive words from the very beginning don’t fare well; they seem to be stuck in a rut, not engaging as deeply with their feelings.)
Of course, as the authors admit, the best thing we can do in times of trouble is to share our thoughts and feelings with people we trust. But that isn’t always possible; sometimes a secret isn’t ours to share, or we’re too fearful of how others will respond. In those cases, writing is the next best thing: a way to share without sharing, to disclose without judgment, to process in private. And if your journal looks a bit like mine—struggle after struggle—that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“Respect yourself if you would have others respect you.”
Now, this is something we should all pay attention to. By instilling and maintaining your own sense of self-respect, which is how the world perceives you, earns you mutual respect in return. You don’t need to be a mastermind to realize this do you? Think positively and kindly about you! You know you possess many positive attributes so why not let everybody else know it too? Be true to who you know yourself to be, the rules you live by, how you respect other’s views and beliefs. Believe me, those who are fortunate enough to interact with you will notice and give you the respect you so deserve.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Fact: Quitting has almost-immediate benefits. Your circulation will improve and your lungs will work better. Your lung cancer risk will start to drop over time. Ten years after you kick the habit, your odds of getting the disease will be half of what they are now.
Fact: They're just as risky. And beware of menthol: Some research suggests that menthol cigarettes may be more dangerous and harder to quit. Their cooling sensation prompts some people to inhale more deeply.
act: Marijuana smoking may raise your lung cancer risk. Many people who use pot also smoke cigarettes. Some research shows that people who do both could be even more likely to get lung cancer.
Fact: When researchers tested these products, they unexpectedly found a higher risk of lung cancer among smokers who took beta-carotene. Talk to your doctor first. It’s OK to get antioxidants from fruits and vegetables.
Fact: Just like cigarettes, they’ll put you at risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and lungs. Cigar smoking, in particular, makes you much more likely to get heart disease and lung disease.
Fact: It’s the biggest one, but there are others. The No. 2 cause of lung cancer is an odorless radioactive gas called radon. Given off by rock and soil, it can seep up into homes and other buildings. You can test your house or office for it. Call your state or county health department for information.
Fact: Research shows no clear link between lung cancer and accidentally breathing in talcum powder. People who work with other chemicals, including asbestos and vinyl chloride, are more likely to get the disease.
Fact: If you stop, your treatment may work better and your side effects could be milder. And if you need surgery, ex-smokers tend to heal better than smokers. If you need radiation for cancer of the larynx, you’re less likely to become hoarse if you don’t light up. And in some cases, quitting makes a second cancer less likely to start.
Fact: People who get regular physical activity may be less likely to get lung cancer, studies show. Working out also helps your lungs work better and helps prevent heart disease, strokes, and many other serious conditions.
Fact: Tobacco is by far the biggest threat, but air pollution is a risk factor, too. People who live in areas with a lot of it are more likely to get lung cancer than those who live where the air is cleaner. Many U.S. cities have cut down on air pollution in recent years, but there are still dangerous levels in other parts of the world.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It may be caused by drugs, alcohol use, or certain medical conditions. But in most cases, it's caused by a virus. This is known as viral hepatitis, and the most common forms are hepatitis A, B, and C.
Sometimes there are no symptoms of hepatitis in the first weeks after infection -- the acute phase. But when they happen, the symptoms of types A, B, and C may include fatigue, nausea, poor appetite, belly pain, a mild fever, or yellow skin or eyes (jaundice). When hepatitis B and C become chronic, they may cause no symptoms for years. By the time there are any warning signs, the liver may already be damaged.
Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can spread from person to person in many different settings. It typically causes only a mild illness, and many people who are infected may never realize they're sick at all. The virus almost always goes away on its own and does not cause long-term liver damage.
It usually spreads through food or water. Food can be tainted when it's touched by a person with hepatitis who did not wash his hands after using the bathroom. This transfers tiny amounts of infected stool to the food. Raw shellfish, fruits, vegetables, and undercooked foods are common culprits in hepatitis A outbreaks. The virus can also spread in daycare centers if employees aren't careful about washing hands after changing diapers.
A prime risk factor for hepatitis A is traveling to or living in a country with high infection rates. You can check the CDC's travel advisories to learn about recent outbreaks. Eating raw foods or drinking tap water can raise your risk while traveling. Children who attend daycare centers also have a higher risk of getting hepatitis A.
Many adults who get hepatitis B have mild symptoms for a short time and then get better on their own. But some people are not able to clear the virus from the body, which causes a long-term infection. Nearly 90% of infants who get the virus will carry it for life. Over time, hepatitis B can lead to serious problems, such as liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer.
You can get it through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. In the U.S., it's most often spread through unprotected sex. It's also possible to get hepatitis B by sharing an infected person's needles, razors, or toothbrush. And an infected mother can pass the virus to her baby during childbirth. Hepatitis B is not spread by hugging, sharing food, or coughing.
Anyone can get hepatitis B, but people who have multiple sex partners or inject illegal drugs have a higher risk. Other risk factors include being a health care worker who is exposed to blood, or living with someone who has chronic hepatitis B.
About 25% of people who get hepatitis C defeat the virus after a short-term infection. The rest will carry the virus in their body for the long term. Chronic hepatitis C can cause very serious complications, including liver failure and liver cancer. There are effective treatments for the virus, though.
It spreads through infected blood. In the U.S., sharing needles or other items used to inject drugs is the most common cause of infection. Getting a tattoo or body piercing with an infected needle is another means of exposure. A mother may pass the virus to her child at birth. In rare cases, unprotected sex spreads hepatitis C, but the risk appears small. Having multiple sex partners, HIV, or rough sex seems to raise risk for spreading hepatitis C.
People who have injected illegal drugs at any time, even one time, many years ago, could be walking around with chronic hepatitis C. Because there are often no symptoms, many former drug users may not realize they have the infection. People who received a blood transfusion before 1992 also have a higher risk. Before that year, donated blood was not screened for the hepatitis C virus.
Chronic hepatitis can quietly attack the liver for years without causing any symptoms. Unless the infection is diagnosed, monitored, and treated, many of these people will eventually have serious liver damage. Fortunately, blood tests can determine whether you have viral hepatitis, and if so, which kind.
Testing is important for anyone with the risk factors we've mentioned, particularly injected drug users and people who have had multiple sex partners. Health advocates are also urging people of Asian heritage to get tested. Stanford University's Asian Liver Center estimates that 1 in 10 Asians living in the U.S. has chronic hepatitis B. Many of them have probably had the virus since birth.
Also, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that health care providers offer a one-time hepatitis C screening for anyone born between 1945 and 1965.
If a test says you have viral hepatitis, you can take steps to protect the ones you love. For hepatitis A, wash hands frequently. For hepatitis B and C, avoid sharing nail clippers, razors, or toothbrushes. Hepatitis B, and sometimes hepatitis C, can be passed through sexual contact. Make sure everyone in your household gets the hepatitis B vaccine. An important step is to see a specialist to discuss treatment options.
Hepatitis A almost always goes away on its own, and no medication is needed. If nausea is a problem, try eating several small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. Drink water, juice, or sports drinks to stay hydrated. And avoid hard exercise until you're feeling better.
The goal of treating chronic hepatitis B is to control the virus and keep it from damaging the liver. This begins with regular monitoring for signs of liver disease. Antiviral medications may help, but not everyone can take them or needs to be on medication. Be sure to discuss the risks and benefits of antiviral therapy with your doctor.
The latest drug to be approved by the FDA is sofosbuvir-velpatasvir (Epclusa), which treats chronic hepatitis C (genotypes 1-6) both with or without cirrhosis. It is approved for use in combination with ribavirin. Other options include Harvoni. It's a once-daily pill that combines Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and ledipasvir. It cures the disease in most people in 8-12 weeks. Other options include taking a combination of Sovaldi, Olysio (simeprevir), interferon and/or ribavirin. Talk with your doctor about what's right for you, based on your medical needs and insurance coverage, since the newer hepatitis C drugs are very expensive.
o manage chronic hepatitis B or C, your doctor will order regular blood tests to check how well your liver is working. Ultrasounds and CT scans can also reveal signs of damage. If the virus is not causing any liver problems, you may not need treatment. But it's important to have regular tests to watch for changes. Complications are easiest to treat when found early.
One of the most common complications of chronic hepatitis is cirrhosis. This is a scarring of the liver that can be found with a biopsy. Cirrhosis makes it difficult for the liver to do its job and can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, weight loss, and swelling in the belly and legs. In severe cases, patients may experience jaundice and confusion.
Viral hepatitis is the top cause of liver cancer, so people with chronic hepatitis B or C need monitoring even if they feel healthy. Blood tests can detect proteins that suggest the presence of liver cancer. Ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs can reveal abnormal lesions in the liver (seen here in green). A biopsy is needed to determine if these areas are cancerous. Tumors that are found early may be surgically removed. But most liver cancers are difficult to treat.
The liver is a vital organ that aids in metabolism, digestion, detoxifying, and the production of many proteins needed by the body. If a large part of the liver is damaged beyond repair, it will no longer be able to perform these important jobs. People cannot live without a working liver. In this case, a liver transplant may be the best hope. This option provides the patient with a healthy liver from a donor.
There are vaccines to protect against hepatitis A and B. The CDC recommends hepatitis A vaccination for all children ages 12 to 23 months and for adults who plan to travel or work in areas with hepatitis A outbreaks or who have other risk factors. People with chronic hepatitis B or C should also get the hepatitis A vaccine if they don't already have immunity to the disease. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants at birth and for adults who have any of the risk factors we discussed earlier. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
If you have chronic hepatitis, there are steps you can take to keep your liver resilient. Avoid alcohol, which can cause additional liver damage. Check with your doctor before taking any medications or supplements, because some are tough on the liver or may not be safe in people with liver disease. Most importantly, keep your appointments for regular monitoring. By watching for any changes in your liver, you and your health care provider can stay one step ahead of the virus.