Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Truth About Beauty Sleep

Faster-Healing Skin

"Beauty sleep" is real. Your skin uses sleep hours to heal itself from the day's damage. When you drift off, your skin gets the chance to improve. That's why you may wake up looking fresh and rosy.

Fewer Breakouts

More sleep, clearer skin. Lack of sleep can lead to stress, which causes pimples and blackheads, even in adults. In one study, experts found that college students had more breakouts when they were stressed out, such as during exam time.

Brighter Eyes

Want eyes that sparkle? Don't let dark circles steal their spotlight. Dark circles often run in families, but they can look even darker if you aren’t getting enough shut-eye. To disguise them, apply a light layer of eye cream as a primer. Then dab on and blend in a dot of concealer one to two shades lighter than your skin tone.

Even Skin Tone

Pulling an all-nighter can make your skin look more pale or blotchy. Sleep encourages healthy blood flow to your skin. If you wake up with uneven skin, apply foundation. Set it with translucent powder (or green-tinted powder to balance out redness).

You Look "Better"!

Sure, you may feel fine running on fumes, but your friends, family, and coworkers are apt to notice. Researchers in Sweden asked a study group to look at pictures of sleep-starved people vs. ones who’d had eight hours. The well-rested people seemed healthier, less tired -- and more attractive.

Outsmart Puffiness

You wake up with puffy eyes because fluid collects around them when your head lies flat on the bed. Solution: Prop your head above your heart at night with a couple of pillows. Still packing bags under your eyes? Apply a cold cloth to the area for a minute or two in the morning.

Skip the Salt

If you're a night owl looking for a snack, reach for a piece of fruit. Salty snacks can give you a swollen face in the morning. That's because foods that are high in salt can cause you to retain fluid, resulting in puffiness.

Make Water Your Nightcap

A glass of wine might seem relaxing, but you're more apt to see dried-out skin and large, visible pores in the mirror the next day. Cut back on nightly drinking and have lots of water instead. In the morning, use a toner that contains zinc sulfate or aluminum, which make pores look smaller.

A Great PM Skin Routine

To keep your face smooth and soft, start with a mild cleanser to remove grit, grime, and makeup. Next, apply moisturizer. To keep delicate areas hydrated overnight, doctors advise using an eye cream that contains glycerin and a petrolatum-based lip balm.

A Warm Bath

One of the best ways to put yourself to sleep can improve your skin too. Take a warm bath -- with all the fixins’, like bubbles, oils, and body scrubs -- before bed to raise your body temperature a little. You tend to feel sleepy when your body temperature drops, like after a bath.

Retinoids Work Best at Night

Retinoids -- skin products with vitamin A -- are the gold standard when it comes to smoothing out wrinkles. Use them at night because they can make your skin more sensitive. Using a retinol during the day may lower your tolerance to sunlight and cause redness and marks on skin.

Sleep Face Up for Fewer Wrinkles

Does your friend have a flawless face? She may be a back sleeper. Sleeping with your face directly on the pillow often leads to lines and creases in the skin. They can become permanent over time. If you can't sleep belly up, try switching to satin sheets (or at least satin pillow cases). That may lessen your odds of sleep-related wrinkles.

Count Your Fingers (And Toes!)

Your nighttime routine might focus on your face, but don't forget your fingers and toes. Dermatologists suggest applying a moisturizing shea butter cream or a healing ointment on your hands and feet at night. To help your feet absorb cream, wear socks to bed.

How to Bounce Back After a Bad Night’s Sleep

Bad Night?

You’re dragging after a night of tossing and turning. It’s probably going to be a tough day at work. What can you do to make things a little easier and make sure you sleep better tonight?

Don't: Hit The Snooze Button

Is there anything sweeter? It’s not like you’re really “sleeping in,” and that extra 10 minutes is just the thing to give you a bit of extra energy, right? Not really. You need up to an hour of extra ZZZs before it helps. Otherwise, you’re really just creating stress for yourself by shortening your morning prep time.

Don't: Sleep In

You decide to take the morning off. You can make up that sleep from 9 to noon, right? Tempting, but probably a bad idea. You set your body’s “internal clock” when you go to bed and get up at the same time each day. It’s best to stick to that routine, even if you didn’t sleep well. It'll help get your cycle back on track.

Do: Get Some Sun

It helps your body set its clock. It can also help counter sleeplessness by helping your mood and brain. So if you want to get more sleep tonight than last night, wake up and greet the light of the day. It helps to get out in the middle of the day, too. If you’re in an office, maybe take a little stroll through the park around lunchtime.

Do: Get Some Caffeine, but Not Too Much

If you skip your regular morning coffee, you may get even groggier. It could also make you irritable and give you a headache. So have some. A little extra might even help you stay alert. Remember, though, that it sticks around in your system for several hours. So don’t overdo it. And don’t have caffeine -- coffee or otherwise -- close to bedtime.

Do: Exercise -- at The Right Time

It can improve your sleep and help you fall asleep more quickly. But don’t do it too close to bedtime because it stimulates your body to make something called cortisol. That's a hormone that makes you more alert. That’s good when you’re trying to wake up for work. But it's not so good when you’re trying to get back to sleep. If you must exercise in the afternoon or evening, try to finish at least 3 hours before you go to bed.

Do: Nap -- the Right Amount

A 20-minute nap will sharpen your attention and motor skills. A 90-minute one may improve your creative thinking. But naps between 20 and 90 minutes (or your own personal sweet spot) can leave you more groggy than when you started. Set an alarm. Keep in mind that a nap of any length, especially later in the day, can make it harder to get to sleep in the evening. That can lead to a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and a messed-up sleep routine.

Don't: Drink Alcohol

It can make you sleepy. But after a few hours, as your body processes the alcohol, it wakes you up. And the quality of the sleep you do get after a few drinks may not be as good.

Maybe: Take Melatonin

Your body makes it naturally and usually makes enough. But you can try a supplement of 1 to 3 milligrams 2 hours before bedtime after a sleepless night. It doesn’t make you sleepy, but can have a calming effect that can lead to sleep. Don’t take it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Also stay away if you have seizures, an autoimmune disease, or depression. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before you take it.

Do: Eat Light and Early

If you don't want to repeat last night’s lack of sleep, a big greasy burger, fries, and a shake at 11 p.m. probably won't help. Eat a lighter dinner several hours before bed. If you’re hungry later, snack lightly on foods that don’t disturb your sleep. Toast or yogurt are often easy on the system.

Don't: Smoke

You probably know that smoking is bad for your health. But if you’re already a smoker and you’re trying for a good night’s sleep, try not to do it too close to bedtime. Like caffeine, tobacco is a stimulant that can keep you from getting to sleep. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking for good.

Don't: Surf the Internet

Too much of any light after the sun goes down can mess up your sleep, but the “blue light” given off by your smartphone, computer, or tablet is especially bad. Calm yourself before bed. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, too.

Do: Hydrate

You want to drink enough fluids so that you don’t wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, but not so much that you wake up because you need to pee. And of course, avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime.

Don't: Make Big Decisions

Without proper sleep, your judgment goes down the tubes. Overworked brain cells can’t put thoughts together or remember basic information. Even your basic understanding of an event as it happens may be different. So keep your head together and wait. Things may be clearer after a good night’s rest.

Do: Chill Out for Bedtime

Start to relax as bedtime approaches: no bright lights or stressful talks or activities. All of that can make it hard to fall asleep. Try to keep your bedroom dark and quiet. And cool, too: 60-67 F is ideal.

When to See Your Doctor

Sometimes sleeplessness is natural. A big event in your life -- good or bad -- may cause it. If this happens now and then, it may be nothing to worry about. If sleep problems start to change your general mood and work habits, it may be time to talk to your doctor. It's especially true if problems stick around for a month or more. Together, you can figure out why you're having trouble sleeping and what to do next.

Inspirational Quote – December 02, 2017

“You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice.”

This reminds me of free will, which really isn’t free. When I hear people say they have free will, I wonder what they are thinking? Every action causes a reaction, and it’s only through time and experience that we come to realize that consequences await. So to quote one of my favorite lines from “Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail,” choose wisely….

Susyn Blair-Hunt

Stone by Stone

Facing a row of heavy sodden soil to be turned by hand, and looking up at the wider project of other rows; these moments come up in so many ways over and over in our lives. "How will this all get done?" we wonder. The choices to procrastinate, to look for a quicker or easier method, or to give up and walk away declaring "It can't be done!" are all possibilities. The approach we take in each of these moments has meanings and answers that go deep into the underground of our lives. Alanda Greene turns these reflections over one forkful at a time in her essay about the annual task of turning dirt.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why Do People Do Bad Things?

In Behave, Robert Sapolsky offers an inspired synthesis of how biology shapes human behavior—both the good and the bad.

The re-emergence of Neo-Nazi ideology; crowd-funded humanitarian aid; mass shootings with no apparent motive; rescue missions for domestic animals on hurricane-ravaged islands. These stories give us insight into the spectrum of human interactions.
But how can the human brain author such a wide swath of behavior? How can the same structure that gave us rhythm and blues also bring us waterboarding? And how can the single brain of one individual both “love thy neighbor” and “hate thy enemy” so vigorously?
In biologist Robert Sapolsky’s newest book, Behave, we approach some answers to these thorny questions. Deftly synthesizing research from neurobiology, social psychology, cognitive science, and sociology, Sapolsky provides a comprehensive look at why we behave the way we do, making connections between our individual behavioral tendencies and our larger societal problems. A monumental tour of human behavior, this 800-page book outlines the forces that shape our best and worst selves.

The roots of our worst behaviors

<a href=“”><em>Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst</em></a> (Penguin Press, 2017, 800 pages)Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (Penguin Press, 2017, 800 pages)
Much of Behave looks at how biology and psychology govern human action within different time frames: seconds before an action (neuroanatomy and endocrinology), seconds to minutes before an action (subliminal and unconscious cueing), and days or months before an action (memory and neuronal plasticity). This organizing theme runs throughout the book and is used to explain everything from power dynamics to social inequality to racism.
Take prejudice, for example. Studies have shown that we are born with the propensity to notice difference in others, to be cautious around people we don’t instantly recognize as belonging to our local group. And there are automatic, “biological” sources of many of these behaviors: At some level, this is the product of chemistry at work very deep within our highly evolved brains, wired to react when we sense an “other.”
It is also true that these mental responses can be tuned by cues in our environment, which happens largely unconsciously. How we perceive a stranger is profoundly influenced by the manner in which we are raised, the people we are exposed to, and the things we are taught. For example, Sapolsky cites a study in which white participants were more accepting of social inequalities after being primed with the idea that race is essential and fixed, and less accepting when primed with the notion that race is a social construct with no genetic basis.
Sapolsky brilliantly weaves together research like this to explain many types of human behavior. In writing about the science of xenophobia (“us versus them”), and about the forces that create and maintain power dynamics, for example, he explains how our quest to protect members of our in-group can conflict with modern cultural values around equality, creating the current tensions around discrimination, segregation, and racial profiling.
“In-group parochialism is often more concerned about Us beating Them than with Us simply doing well,” he writes. “This is the essence of tolerating inequality in the name of loyalty.” 
This paradigm manifests across the world and especially in the political realm, where a politicians’ success is often dictated by the ability to prime a group of supporters to the similarities between him and them, rather than their differences (especially when the differences between a candidate and his base are objectively vast on a measure like income).
“Humans are fragile, capable of much on all ends of the moral spectrum”
―Dr. Brandon Ogbunu
Having tackled why human beings choose to place some people in the “us” camp and others with the “thems,” Sapolsky then illustrates how our tendency to notice differences manifests in social hierarchies that can appear incorrigible. He starts with studies performed in species closely related to humans—baboons, monkeys, and chimpanzees. For one, many species don’t think about “pecking order” in a binary sense (you’re below me or above me), but in a more graded sense—for example, baboons interact differently with the guy one step above them in rank than the one five steps below.
While many of these revealing studies of baboons or chimpanzees cannot be directly applied to humans, Sapolsky points to some of the very best research done with humans, effectively bridging what we’ve learned from related species. He shows that brain evolution is related to our social needs and that, across primate species, the size of the average social group is strongly linked to the size of the brain. Even within human beings, this is true, so that “the larger the size of someone’s social network (often calculated by the number of email/texting relationships), the larger the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, orbital prefrontal cortex, and amygdala.”
Findings like these help us understand the particular importance of our social connections and why we value our social status so much. But Sapolsky is less interested in explaining why humans are aware of social status than in demonstrating the nefarious ways that we are manipulated into maintaining our status.
For example, we tend to support some social hierarchies and rebel against others, in part due to the neurobiology of disgust, which is ruled by our sense of smell and a brain area called the insular cortex. Things that disgust us tend to invoke fear, and make us inclined to reach out for our loved ones, property, and way of life, and to hold on to them tightly, even violently. In fact, based on several studies, Sapolsky shows that feelings of disgust are related to more conservative values, so that you can “stick subjects in a room with a smelly garbage can, and they become more socially conservative.” The book is full of several similarly pithy scientific findings and their relevance to our social lives.

How to bring out human goodness

Spelled out this way, these findings don’t seem to bode well for humans. We have evolved to support our immediate social groups, a tendency that can be easily manipulated into discriminatory behavior, especially at younger ages. The good news, according to Sapolsky, is that there are always individuals who resist the temptation to discriminate and won’t conform to harmful acts based on othering or hierarchy.
Throughout the book, he offers suggestions for how we might subvert social tendencies to conform and aim our behavior towards better social ends. For example, his advice to counter xenophobia includes ”emphasizing individuation and shared attributes, perspective taking, more benign dichotomies, learning hierarchical differences, and bringing people together on equal terms with shared goals.”
Sapolsky’s attempt at intervention-advice doesn’t always succeed, which could leave the reader discouraged about the fate of human beings. The fact that there are so many “ghosts in the machine,” working in so many nefarious ways, is disquieting. And this is true even if that nefariousness can be positively hijacked, to unleash the best of our angels.

Yet Sapolsky provides some hope about how to steer ourselves toward better behavior.
If we accept that there will always be sides, it’s a non-trivial to-do list item to always be on the side of angels. Distrust essentialism. Keep in mind that what seems like rationality is often just rationalization, playing catch-up with subterranean forces that we never suspect. Focus on the larger, shared goals. Practice perspective taking. Individuate, individuate, individuate. Recall the historical lessons of how often the truly malignant Thems keep themselves hidden and make third parties the fall guy.
Importantly, Sapolsky makes these points without the classical hubris of a know-it-all neurobiologist talking down to social scientists, which makes his arguments digestible to non-scientists. At the same time, his book alerts basic scientists that their often mechanistic take on behavior can miss some things—namely, an appropriate understanding of how context shapes the biology of good and bad. 
As a basic scientist who studies biological evolution, I found Sapolsky’s approach convincing, and gravitated to his intrepid story of human behavior. And, as an African American who has engineered much of his social life around avoiding racism (personal and institutional)—the way I live, my politics, the manner in which I communicate, how and where I work—I find it somewhat sobering to learn that racist behavior is a manifestation of a cognitive quicksand that the species continues to fall into, the product of very essential, very real, very tractable biology. 
This doesn’t make racism inevitable, though, and surely doesn’t excuse it. In fact, Sapolsky’s mastery of the topic, and his emphasis on how context frames how and why we “other,” is evidence that humans can understand and change our behavior. We can treat bigotry and its troubling consequences for what they are: not inevitable, but an arbitrary manifestation of some human characteristics that can be tweaked and tuned by culture and understanding. 
This message is, in the end, the defining one of Behave: Humans are fragile, capable of much on all ends of the moral spectrum. Because we now understand more about ourselves than ever before, we are finally in a position to do more to bring out the best in all of us.

Inspirational Quote – December 01, 2017

“Life can be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

It’s easy to look back on our lives and say, “Oh, that’s why this happened” or “I’m glad I didn’t get what I thought I wanted” because we see how Spirit led us to a better place. The gift of this is that as we move forward through our lives, we become more aware of the fact that when things don’t work out or life seems difficult, there is a higher purpose in operation. Our challenge is to walk our paths with faith and hope, always believing that whatever unfolds is in our best interest.

Susyn Blair-Hunt

Wislawa Szymborska: The Poet and the World

Poets are Fortune's darlings according to Wislawa Szymborska. Despite the trials and tribulations, the frustration of not feeling comfortable calling oneself a poet and the real threat of claiming the title "poet" without official certification in some countries, poets are charged with answering the inner impulse of inspiration with "I don't know." The search for knowing leads poets inevitably to create a body of work, one that is never fully complete. They consider every word, weighing each one to reveal what most of us consider ordinary and normal as extra-ordinary and unique. Whether stone or cloud, day or night, a single existence or a person's existence, poets give their lives to describing a world and those in it as astonishing. What follows is the translated text of Symborska's Nobel acceptance speech.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

How to Feel More Positive about Your Work

Imagination is a powerful tool that can bring us more happiness on the job.

The workplace is ripe for worrying. Faced with a combination of deadlines, meetings, and performance evaluations, many of us find ourselves distracted by unpleasant visions of the future.
Maybe we imagine that we’ll be criticized for not completing a project to our boss’s standards. Or maybe we worry that we’ll be laid off. In the process, we end up generating negative emotions from experiences that haven’t even happened yet. We create stress out of thin air.
Understanding how imagination works in the brain, and how it can influence our feelings, can point to a different way forward. With a little help, we can leverage our active imagination to experience good feelings about work.

Imagination and emotions

© Bilby Summerhill / CC BY 2.0
Did you know that your brain has a difficult time differentiating between things that happen in your imagination and things that happen in real life?
It turns out that when we imagine things, the brain attempts to simulate the responses that would occur if these situations actually happened. This is the same neural process that enables us to be empathic, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and understand their mental states. But we also use this process to better understand ourselves.
In our minds, we can play out future scenarios to predict how we would personally think, feel, and respond to them. And by doing so, we experience thoughts and emotions similar to those that would occur if the situations were actually happening to us right now. 

Luckily, you can turn this process around to undo stress—by imagining all the positive things that may happen in your future. In one study, participants used this technique for 14 days in a row, imagining four positive things that could actually happen to them the day after, such as eating a tasty meal or getting hired for a job. At the end of the study, this group showed an increase in happiness, while groups who imagined negative or routine future events did not.
When you imagine your boss finally praising you for something you did well or you visualize getting that promotion that you’ve been hoping for, you are essentially telling your brain to respond as if those things were happening. Suddenly, you create positive emotions out of thin air.

Three ways to use imagination at work

Now that you know how it works, you can practice using imagination to boost your mood and improve your workday. Here are three specific ways to apply this technique that could help you generate positive emotions at work.

1. Start your day by imagining the best possible day. In the morning while you’re brushing your teeth or taking a shower, spend a few minutes imagining the best possible day you could have. What would happen? Who would you interact with? How would you feel?
For example, I might imagine that my morning is really productive and I complete this article in record time—I’d feel a sense of accomplishment. Then, I imagine my meeting with a potential new client and we hit it off immediately—I feel joyous and delighted. The day ends with me tying up some loose ends so that I can fully disconnect from work—I then enjoy my evening. As you are imagining, really try to generate the emotions that would occur inside you if your day went exactly as you desire.
2. Pause for an imagination break before new situations. Before a meeting with your boss or a presentation to your coworkers, take a moment to visualize what would happen if everything went awesomely. Would you have an inspiring conversation? Would everyone love your ideas? Clarify for yourself exactly how it would go and imagine how it would feel.
Again, conjure those emotions and let yourself feel them. At the very least, you’ll enter the situation in a good mood.
3. End your day by thinking of a better tomorrow. Before you go to bed, imagine what tomorrow could be like—not what you think it will be like, but what it could be at its best. Don’t limit yourself to thinking of things that could actually happen. Get creative by imagining that tomorrow you can fly or your workplace is suddenly overrun with adorable puppies.
Don’t worry about feeling silly. Just go with it. Besides putting a smile on your face, this exercise could also help you practice your imagination skills, so it gets easier to dream about the future in general.

Of course, imagining something won’t necessarily make it true. If your boss is never happy with your work, for example, that’s obviously a real problem in need of a real solution. Also, you may not always be in the mood for positive imagination. In those moments, practicing mindfulness or identifying personal strengths that you could leverage at work are good alternatives.
Imagination is one of the human mind’s exceptional capacities. With some practice, it can become a simple way to bring more positivity to your work life—another tool to add to your happiness toolkit.

Inspirational Quote – November 30, 2017

“He that is discontented in one place, will seldom be happy in another.”

Discontentment is something felt within us, so attempting to just dismiss it, obviously won’t work will it? In order to get rid we need firstly, to understand why we are feeling discontented and, secondly, taking steps to finding a resolution. Understand, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by physically upping sticks and moving, no matter how far away. Your discontent will just tag along with you. So, as we said, time to acknowledge your feelings and take whatever action you believe will give your discontent its marching orders. Hopefully, that’s when discontent will find another home far, far away, and happiness can move in again.

The Sound of the Genuine

"Cultivate the discipline of listening" for your genuine self. This is the advice that Howard Thurman gave in 1980 during his commencement address at Spelman College. How many of us ever take the time to do that? We spend our days in many pointless pursuits that distract us from our essential truth. Thurman says the world is waiting for this truth to pour out of us, it is of our own creation and can't be dictated by anyone else or mimicked from others. Whether grand or simple, it is what we need to give to the world if we are to find ourselves or make the contribution that only we can make. Read more of Thurman's profound address here and cultivate the discipline of hearing that still small voice within to be yourself.