Showing posts from October 27, 2019

Four Ways Technology Can Make You Happier

We can use apps and social media to support our happiness, health, goals, and relationships.

By Tchiki Davis

These days, you can’t go anywhere without hearing about how technology is ruining everything, including our happiness. There is some truth to this, but it’s not the whole story. 

Technology can be bad for us—for example, when social media gives us FOMO (fear of missing out) or traps us in filter bubbles that prevent us from seeing multiple points of view on important issues. As a society, we are increasingly concerned that technologies like smartphones and social media result in more social comparison, bullying, and loneliness—all stumbling blocks to happiness. Technology seems to be bad for our happiness when it interferes with the mental, social, emotional, and behavioral processes that contribute to well-being.

But we often fail to realize (and discuss) the ways that technology can also support happiness and well-being—for example, when video calls let us talk to people all ove…

What Focusing on the Breath Does to Your Brain

Different breathing patterns activate our brain networks related to mood, attention, and body awareness, a new study suggests.

By B Grace Bullock

Slow down, and pay attention to your breath. It’s not merely commonsense advice. It also reflects what meditation, yoga, and other stress-reducing therapies teach: that focusing on the timing and pace of our breath can have positive effects on our body and mind. A recent study in the Journal of Neurophysiology may support this, revealing that several brain regions linked to emotion, attention, and body awareness are activated when we pay attention to our breath.

Paced breathing involves consciously inhaling and exhaling according to a set rhythm. For example, you might inhale for four counts, exhale for six, and repeat. Prior research shows that paced breathing exercises can both focus attention and regulate the nervous system. To date, however, we have known little about how this affects brain function in humans.

These findings represent a brea…

The Underland is a Deeply Human Realm

Robert Macfarlane writes vividly about outdoor spaces, borders, and the way in which one type of territory transforms subtly into another. His new book, Underland, descends into a quite literally overlooked landscape: the one beneath our feet. He wrestles with grand questions about humanity and its effects on the natural world even as he chronicles journeys to isolated caves, the man-made caverns below cities, and scientific research facilities whose underground isolation is essential to their mission.

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Six Recent Horror Movies That Highlight the Best in Humanity

Just in time for Halloween, Jeremy Adam Smith explores movies from the past year that can help you face your own mortality.

Horror movies are supposed to be horrible. Their job is to show us situations that elicit fear and revulsion. Thus, they tend to highlight the worst in humanity, not the best.

By Jeremy Adam Smith

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What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Bullying in Schools?

A new study identifies the most effective approaches to bullying prevention.

By Diana Divecha

All 50 U.S. states require schools to have a bullying prevention policy.

But a policy, alone, is not enough. Despite the requirement, there’s been a slight uptick in all forms of bullying during the last three years. Bullying can look like experienced basketball players systematically intimidating novice players off the court, kids repeatedly stigmatizing immigrant classmates for their cultural differences, or a middle-school girl suddenly being insulted and excluded by her group of friends.

Bullying occurs everywhere, even in the highest-performing schools, and it is hurtful to everyone involved, from the targets of bullying to the witnesses—and even to bullies themselves. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, so it’s a good time to ask ourselves: What are the best practices for preventing bullying in schools? That’s a question I explored with my colleague Marc Brackett from the Yale Ce…

Little Lichen Wonders of the World

Be prepared to see the world with new eyes! Never again will you look at the rocks, trees, and buildings around you without seeing one of the world’s mysterious wonders; lichen.

Have you ever had someone point something out to you and then you start to see it everywhere? Suddenly you’re a part of a secret club of people who see the world with just a little more wonder. Well, we’re about to let you into one of those secret clubs and we think you’ll really take a lichen to this new world view!

By Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

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13 Life Lessons From 13 Years of Brain Pickings

"On October 23, 2006,Brain Pickingswas born as a plain-text email to seven friends. It was then, and continues to be, a labor of love and ledger of curiosity, although the mind and heart from which it sprang have changed --have grown, I hope -- tremendously. At the end of the first decade, I toldits improbable origin storyand drew from its evolution the ten most important things this all-consuming daily endeavor taught me about writing and living -- largely notes to myself, perhaps best thought of as resolutions in reverse, that may or may not be useful to others." Brain Pickings is now thirteen, and reflecting on the last three years, its creator Maria Popova adds three more insights to the original ten gleaned from her journey. Read all thirteen here.

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The Mindfulness Skill That Is Crucial for Stress

A new study suggests that practicing acceptance helps reduce our stress more than simple mindful awareness.

By Jill Suttie

Life can be stressful. Whether it’s the stress that comes with having too much work to do in too little time, fulfilling caregiving obligations, or dealing with a major illness or setback, sometimes it can be hard to cope.

In response to stress, many people today are turning to meditation or mindfulness apps (myself included). But not all mindfulness practice is equally effective for combatting stress, a new study suggests. It’s possible that some of our practices may be missing a vital ingredient: acceptance.

In this study, researchers randomly assigned 137 stressed adults of various ages and ethnicities to one of three programs: an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, where they learned to mindfully pay attention to their present-moment experiences in an accepting, nonjudgmental way; an MBSR course without instructions on acceptance; or no co…

What a Netflix Crime Series Gets Right About Human Connection

The Netflix miniseries Unbelievable shows the power of empathic listening amid a painful story of rape.

By Elise Proulx

Warning: This article contains spoilers, as well as descriptions of sexual assault.

At first, the Netflix miniseries Unbelievable would seem to be an unlikely source of uplifting messages about human connection and understanding. 

Based on a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative article called “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” the series—co-created by Susannah Grant with novelists Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon—follows the story of Washington State resident Marie Adler (played by Kaitlyn Dever), after she is brutally raped by a stranger in 2008.

Adler, a former foster child and low-end retail worker, becomes victimized afresh when the two middle-aged male investigating detectives, along with her former foster parents, start to doubt her version of the crime. This is partially because of her flat emotions, which we now know are part of the fight-flight-freeze response to…

The Choir That’s Leading the Way to a Better World

Have you had a “goose-bump moment” yet today? Here’s your best chance! From South Africa to the stage of America’s Got Talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir is sharing their dynamic performances and uplifting stories with the world.

How do you help children truly “soar” out of poverty? Give them the tools to showcase their talents! The inspiring story of the Ndlovu Youth Choir’s journey from South Africa to the stage of America’s Got Talent is proof of what possibilities lay in coming together, working tirelessly for a common goal, and believing in each other!

By Sam Burns

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Bye Bye Plastic Bags

"Five years ago, two young women decided they were going to do something about the plastic problem on their island of Bali. And Bye Bye Plastic Bags was born. How young? So young one of them couldn't make it to our midweek interview. "She's at school," explained 18-year-old Melati Wijsen, talking about her 16- year- old sister Isabel."She's just halfway through grade 11 and she's putting her focus more into graduating high school."Bali is part of the island nation of Indonesia, which is the world's second biggest polluter when it comes to marine plastic..."NPR shares more here.

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Does Returning Favors Come Naturally to Kids?

Young kids naturally hold a grudge, but they need to learn to engage in grateful reciprocity.

By Nadia Chernyak, Yarrow Dunham, Peter Blake

Have you heard this tale? In ancient times, an escaped slave hid in a cave only to encounter a wounded lion. Although afraid, the man helps the lion, removing a thorn from its paw. The lion is forever grateful, shares his food with the man, and, eventually, saves his life.

If this millennia-old fable sounds familiar, you may have encountered it as a child. Variations of “Androcles and the Lion” appear in Aesop’s Fables and Roman folklore, and the story persists in children’s books today.

Stories like these capitalize on a lesson that most people consider to be deeply natural and intuitive: “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Given the relevance of this proverb in daily life, like many psychologists before us, we assumed that this principle would be at play in the behavior even of young children.

However, recent experiments by our team suggest th…

Life Advice from the Slowest Mammal on Earth!

What can sloths teach us about dealing with the chaos of modern life? Here’s a hilarious TED Talk that will have you becoming a champion of the sloth lifestyle for yourself.

Can the slowest animal in the world teach us something about being better, even healthier, humans in this busy world? The sloth’s number one cheerleader, Lucy Cooke, lets us in on their sleepy secrets in one of the funniest and most fascinating talks you’ve likely heard in a long while!

By Sam Burns

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