This Is “Your Brain On Fiction”

A great article on the effects the (fictional) written word has on the area between our ears, by Annie Murphy Paul:

AMID the squawks and pings of our digital devices, the old-fashioned virtues of reading novels can seem faded, even futile. But new support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience.

Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.

More HERE. . .

TED Talk: The happy secret to better work


From the TED intro:

We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk from TEDxBloomington, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity.

Shawn Achor is the CEO of Good Think Inc., where he researches and teaches about positive psychology.

“I could’a been a contender.”


I found this Psychology Today article by Abby Ellin on the subject of aspirational hell when I googled the “On The Waterfront” quote. Please read it.

I have never written a best-selling book.

I have never won a Pulitzer.

I have never reported for 60 Minutes, won a gold medal in gymnastics, or thanked my parents and God as Barbara Streisand handed me my Oscar for Best Actress/Writer/Director.

I do not have a Ph.D. or J.D. Nor, for that matter, did I spend my undergraduate years frolicking amid the ivied walls of Harvard or Yale.

I have only one home, a one-bedroom in New York City. No Tuscan villa. No French chateau. No yurt in Sonoma.

In sum, I am not living the life I expected—the life of, say, Diane Sawyer, Julia Roberts, or better yet, Barack Obama. And this bothers me.

A lot.

There’s more…

Take a Nap, Grow Your IQ


Beautiful Napping Dog

This probably explains why my dog Celeste is so smart. Via our friends at PsychCentral, Napping Makes You Smarter:

A new study that examined participants’ cognitive abilities after they took a nap demonstrates that a simple nap may help make you “smarter.”The research, conducted at the University of California at Berkeley, examined the brain boosting effects of a nap on 39 healthy adults. Half the subjects took a 90 minute nap during the day, and then all subjects were administered a set of tests designed to measure cognitive ability.

Those who took the nap outperformed subjects who did not. The people who had a nap improved their ability to learn by 10%, according to the researchers.

By the way, our cats Samantha and Bryce are smarter than Celeste. They’re better nappers.

There’s more…

Take an App and Call Me In the Morning


From our friends at PsychCentral, online help for people with panic disorders and anxiety problems:

A[n] new online treatment system will provide real-time care by combining patient-provider communication with physiological biofeedback to assist patients suffering with panic disorder and anxiety problems.Vincent Tseng and Bai-En Shie of the National Cheng Kung University are working with psychiatrist Fong-Lin Jang of the Chi-Mei Medical Center, in Tainan, Taiwan, to develop the system they say will have a “pivotal impact” on the health care industry. The research is published in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Data Mining.

The increasing pace of life, the industrialization of society, and the advent of digital technology are all thought to underlie the growing prevalence of mental illness. Disorders, such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression are now diagnosed more frequently than ever before.

There’s more…

A Whiter Shade of Sosa


There’s a heartbreaking story in today’s New York Times. It concerns the serious side effects associated with the use of certain skin-lightening creams.

Dermatologists nationwide are seeing women of Hispanic and African descent, among others, with severe side effects…from the misuse of skin-lightening creams, many with prescription-strength ingredients, which are sold in beauty shops and bodegas and online.

I don’t understand — and I don’t want to judge, either — the motivation of anyone using these product. I’m not free from behavior that it’s not in my best interest. Usually the perceived benefits outweigh the possible “severe side effects.” It doesn’t seem that different to me than folks lying on a tanning bed or a sunny beach to alter their appearance at the risk of skin cancer. To each his/her own.

We’re all searching for acceptance and love. And some find it easier to be honest about the reasons for using the creams. From the same NY Times article:

For years, Allison Ross rubbed in skin-lightening creams with names like Hyprogel and Fair & White. She said she wanted to even out and brighten the tone of her face, neck and hands. Mrs. Ross, 45, who lives in Brooklyn, also said that she used the lightening creams “to be more accepted in society.”

Honesty that deserves respect — and empathy.

Others appear to be struggling with the truth, not to mention word definitions and their self-esteem. Damn, that sounds like a judgment, doesn’t it?

Sammy Sosa, the former baseball slugger…said a cream to “soften” his skin had bleached it, too. “I’m not a racist,” he said in the interview. “I live my life happily.”

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and after. May to November metamorphosis.

What would you change about yourself if you had the means? I could think of a couple of things…

Writing Yourself a Better Life


One of the things I traded for my architectural education was my cursive hand writing style. For the last thirty years I’ve only written in caps except for my signature. I could write long-hand if I wanted to, but it would take too darn long.

When I read in PsychCentral that there might be a connection between handwriting and self-esteem, I was very interested. Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. interviews Vimala Rodgers, an educator, Director of The International Institute of Handwriting Studies, and author of multiple books including her newest called Transform Your Life Through Handwriting:

Question: Vimala, many people struggle with the issue of low self esteem and harsh critical self-judgments. In your most recent book, Transform Your Life through Handwriting, you guide people through a program to change the way their minds think by mindfully tuning into the stroke of their pens. How does this work?

Vimala: As a Psychologist, you know that it is the subconscious mind that interprets what happens to us, and from that, it dictates who we see ourselves to be (i.e., our self image), not who we ARE. It is not the hand per se, but this same subconscious mind who moves our pen to reaffirm this. Each stroke of the pen makes a statement about the image we hold of ourselves. By adopting Self-affirming writing patterns we redefine that self-image in a positive way. It takes 40 days of committed writing to realign the neurological patterns in the brain. In scientific jargon, this is called “cortical remapping,” or the brain’s ability to rewire itself.

Here’s the rest of this fascinating interview