One of my favorite ways to learn is by listening. And lately I’ve been eagerly listening to the podcast “Where Should We Begin?” by psychotherapist Esther Perel. Each episode consists of a couples’ therapy session that she conducts with a different dyad. Her podcast exposes our seemingly conflicting desires for comfort/familiarity on the one hand, and novelty/excitement on the other hand, in relationships with secondary attachment figures (romantic partners); this balance is in some ways reminiscent of how youth negotiate closeness versus independence with their primary attachment figures (their parents). So, if you’re looking for a podcast to keep you engaged, and leave you thinking, this one is definitely worth a listen!
When was the last time you saw something special that you wanted to remember? Did you take out your smartphone to capture it and share with others, or did you immerse yourself in the experience and focus on what it felt like using your five senses? If you, like myself, reluctantly and sheepishly answered the former, then this TED talk may be of interest to you: In it, psychologist Adam Alter discusses research findings about the positive consequences of carving out time in our day that is free of screens, and how to go about limiting screen time in a more realistic way (see Alter, 2017).
Emotional granularity is the ability to narrow down what emotions you are experiencing in more precise terms, for example, specifying that you feel irritable or angry instead of saying that you generally feel “bad”. Having a better sense of exactly what we are feeling could help guide us towards more specific actions, and some research suggests that this ability is related to better psychological and social functioning (Smidt & Suvak, 2015). Check out this New York Times article to learn more about this and how you can help develop your own emotional granularity!
We can all probably agree that being socially accepted by others feels good and that being rejected can be pretty painful, but did you know that some brain areas that have been linked with enduring physical pain may also be involved when we undergo social rejection (Kross, Berman, Mischel, Smith, & Wager, 2011; but see Woo et al., 2014)? In this article, psychologist Guy Winch explains why this might be, how we might be inadvertently making social rejection more painful for ourselves than it has to be, and how we can react more adaptively to social rejection in the future.
Most of us can agree that we would like to live long, happy and healthy lives. But where can we devote our time and energy so that we are more likely to have such positive outcomes? Findings from the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which studied the same group of individuals for decades, suggest that the quality of our social relationships is an important predictor of later well-being (Waldinger, Cohen, Schulz, & Crowell, 2015; Waldinger & Schulz, 2010). Watch this TED talk by the study's director, Dr. Robert Waldinger, to learn more!
Many of us tend to have mixed views about worry: we don’t like experiencing it and sometimes even try to suppress worry-related thoughts on the one hand, but we also think that worrying can help us (perhaps by preparing us in some way for the negative event that we are anticipating) (see Davey, Tallis, & Capuzzo, 1996). Check out this New York Times article, in which Roni Caryn Rabin explains that certain kinds of worry are more constructive than others and provides some tips for how we can manage our worries.
The neurohormone oxytocin is attracting a lot of attention in both popular media and scientific communities! Some studies suggest that oxytocin nasal sprays have social benefits, including making people more trusting (Kosfeld, Heinrichs, Zak, Fischbacher & Fehr, 2005) and generous (Zak, Stanton, Ahmadi, 2007). Other studies have found relationships between levels of oxytocin and psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety (see Neumann & Landgraf, 2012). Does that mean that oxytocin will be the basis for the next big anti-anxiety medication? Not necessarily. See this article by researcher Paul Zak to find out why it’s not quite that simple.
Decades of research have shown the benefits of exercise on mood (Dinas, Koutedakis, & Flouris, 2011). Many people report that they have less desire or energy to do things like daily chores, socializing, and exercising when they’re feeling depressed. This makes sense because decreased motivation, energy and pleasure can be symptoms of depression! The problem is that this can create a cycle where we feel down so we become more inactive/sedentary, but then this inactivity makes us feel even more down. Check out this link to learn more about how you can make small changes to your activity level in order to help break this cycle and improve your mood.
When we think “Valentine’s Day”, we think love, flowers, and chocolate. But we all know that relationships aren’t always that simple or easy. Visit this link to learn why it is so important to tell our partners what we want, and how we can go about doing this!
Ever feel like other people seem to lead a more charmed life than you do? Or at least that’s what it looks like on their Facebook pages… Check out this article to see why we might be getting a skewed sample from social media, and how we can guard against its negative impact on our mood!
Ever wonder why some people seem to connect easily with others, while others have trouble trusting or relying on their partners? In this Psychology Today article, Dr. Lisa Firestone explains these different attachment styles, their bases in early childhood experiences, and perhaps most importantly, that these styles can be changed over time. Which attachment pattern best describes you?
Are you, or someone close to you, considered an introvert? Is being an introvert a bad thing or a good thing? In this TED talk, Susan Cain highlights the many advantages of being an introvert in a society that places high value upon extraversion. I also recommend her book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.
Sleep is something that comes easily to some, but can be daunting to others. For those of us who have had longstanding trouble falling or staying asleep, counting sheep may not be enough. In this article, Dr. Alex Korb gives 14 tips to improve the quality of your sleep, which can have a big impact on both your mood and your ability to concentrate at work.